Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"WE FEEL IN ENGLAND THAT WE HAVE TREATED YOU IRISH RATHER UNFAIRLY, IT SEEMS HISTORY IS TO BLAME" - (ULYSSES) JAMES JOYCE.

What do Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness, Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre, Georges Jacques Danton & Lev Davidovich Bronstein (more recognisable of course as Robespierre, Danton and Trotsky) have in common? Apart from being revolutionaries of one kind or another they all have or have had trouble keeping control of the causes they espoused and fought for; in the case of Robespierre & Danton, these two former giant figures in the glorious French Revolution found that despite being great revolutionary leaders and famous orators, their former revolutionary comrades eventually got round to making a date for them with Madame Guillotine. In the Case of Trotsky; a fall out with Stalin led to a well documented fatal incident with an ice pick, In the case of Adams & McGuiness some comrades would like a similar fate to befall them, alas, it was ever thus.

Revolutions are notoriously difficult to control and ending them can be as difficult as starting them, think about Spain, Russia, while Ireland itself is a good example, 93 years after the Easter Rising the killing goes on and people live in strictly segregated areas, where wandering into the wrong place by mistake can get you shot.

Revolutions throw up heroic figures; opponents don’t agree of course about who is and is not a hero; both sides have their own and both write their own version of events, songs, poems and stories. Ireland has been at war of one kind or another for hundreds of years, mainly with Britain/England that’s why it was sadly no surprise to me when the latest killings took place. Unfortunately there are those involved who will always want to continue the fight because they will never be satisfied with compromise, some see them as heroes and some as fanatics.

When Michael Collins signed the partition agreement he was congratulated by someone at the meeting to whom he said “I have just signed my own death warrant” and he was correct as he was gunned down later by former comrades. If leaders in Northern Ireland of whatever stripe are genuinely surprised by events then I accuse them of naivety; my daughter has a very close friend from Belfast whom she visits; they spoke on the phone about these events and her pal said her mother had said despairingly “here we go again; I’m off to ASDA to buy a bin lid” black humour indeed but; an indication that she; and; I think many others knew that something like this could happen.

Like most others I hoped that the latest peace process would succeed and; to an extent it has; the overwhelming majority want it to hold as has been demonstrated by the public outcry, they have had a lengthy period of peace and they have had the chance to live relatively normal lives. Intractable enemies have been sitting round the table and learning to compromise, that is anathema to some, the immediate future will be volatile and edgy, we must all hope for the sake of sanity that the diehards will think again and fall in line with the huge majority that they claim to be fighting for.

Having spent a holiday last summer travelling around Ireland I am very sad indeed to think that the place I visited has been threatened yet again with public disorder and sectarian crime, last year it was lovely and the lack of tension was notable, clearly it is still a tribal society in the North but it was far more welcoming and good natured than before; the thought of it unravelling again is unbearable and must not be allowed to happen.

20 comments:

David Duff said...

The other thing those characters have in common is that the body count around them went up alarmingly.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

(David Duff) 11/03/09
A great many more names could be added to that list and some people would say that the body count didn’t rise high enough.

Revolutions are a serious business.

Anonymous said...

"some people would say that the body count didn’t rise high enough."

Those would be the people who condone murder I presume?

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

(Anonymous) 08:54

No they wouldn’t be, murder right? let’s see then, I mentioned 3 and could have mentioned more.

1/ Ireland; did the British army drive an armoured car on to the playing field at Croke Park Dublin, turn it’s gun on the crowd and shoot into them killing 9 people? Have the British police/army ever murdered any Irish people in recent years?

2/ Russia, did the army/police of the Czar ever murder any Russian people before they were overthrown ?

3/ The French revolution, did the French rulers ever murder anyone before they were overthrown ? were French people not executed for stealing bread? or cake if they couldn't find bread to steal?

A wee bit shallow are you not?

Anonymous said...

Anyone who would state that "the body count didn’t rise high enough." whatever the circumstances is a truly nasty and vindictive person

I personally would never condone murder by anyone for any reason.

I am surprised that as a councillor and in a public position that you would.

You should be deeply ashamed.

Hemmerfru said...

The best course of action here would be to treat the perpetrators as criminals, rather than giving them the legitimacy of calling them terrorists with political motives. Find them, try them in open court before their peers - these are criminal gangs, not bold freedom fighters.

For the vast majority of people in the region, the violent part of this conflict is over: those who prefer the bullet to the ballot have no place in the future of Northern Ireland, whatever that may be.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

(Anonymous) 11:57
“I am surprised that as a councillor and in a public position that you would.

You should be deeply ashamed”

Any shame attached to this is yours whoever you are, unless of course you can point out where I condoned murder.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

(Hemmerfru) 16:29
To describe all terrorists as criminals and murderers does not move the problem forward one bit. A lot of people who were branded as terrorists and murderers went on to take tea in Downing St. as guests of the British Govt. life just aint that simple.

Unfortunately for your argument there are many people who don’t share your analysis of who is and is not a a criminal gangster and who is a freedom fighter, that is one of the problems which reactionaries try to ignore.

Here is a question for you following this incident the perpetrators were called thugs, criminals, gangsters, evil, depraved and cowards. Is there any one of these words you would disagree with?

Keri said...

I want to see a united Ireland but from my perspective in the South. I just don't see these people as freedom fighters. The problem always overlooked was the Protestants of Ulster who have as much right to decide who governs them as anyone else. I'd be more than happy to welcome them into my country but we can only do this by making abundantly clear that we do not support the murder of people with views we don't like. In the end they help nothing and no one. Times change I do not want Ulster back at gunpoint. No border, no nation state, no national;ist dream is worth the loss of a single life. The people who liberated the largest part of Eire faced a choice between endless death under the British or violence in the short term to achieve long term peace. Today people in the north face nothing so urgent. All that's left is a question of the identity of the majority and like I say it's really not worth anyone dying over.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

(Keri) 18/03/09

Keri – I don’t disagree with most of what you say; I think you will find that I did not call anyone a freedom fighter; I made the point that some people find what others call murderers to be freedom fighters.

The catholic/republican community in NI have achieved a great deal and are now in a far better position to pursue their aspirations through the ballot box; although some will argue that any election in Ireland which does not include the voters in the south would not be legitimate, the last time the whole of Ireland voted was in the 1920’s and Sinn Fein won over 80% of the vote so you can see where they are coming from.

“All that's left is a question of the identity of the majority and like I say it's really not worth anyone dying over”

I agree it’s not worth dying for but there is more at stake than identity; the situation in the early sixties showed the world that NI was a scandal to rank with Apartheid and any other rotten regime anywhere, and although this has improved it still has a long way to go before NI is an equal society.

I believe that this will come about through political struggle and not violence.

Hemmerfru said...

Ahoy! A bit late on this thread, but I've been ill...

You've used 'reactionaries' for no good reason. What I said was that the groups that carried out these attacks are criminals. There's a democratic power sharing initiative in Northern Ireland, so republicans and unionists can appeal to the voters and move forward according to the popular mandate. NI is moving towards self-determination in a peaceful way, as agreed by the main protagonists in the Troubles.

Fringe groups like the one responsible for these attacks are on a par with Combat 18 - splinter groups from unpalatable but legitimate political groups who'd rather terrorise than convince.

If you want to follow the distinction between a murderer and a freedom fighter is purely subjective, you'll find it hard to condemn the 7/7 bombers, the Omagh bombers or even Dave Copeland, the neo-nazi nail bomber? What line do you draw between legitimate violent expression of dissent and cold-blooded killing?

"thugs, criminals, gangsters, evil, depraved and cowards... disagree?"
All of them apart from criminals. It's the only one that matters. The others are value judgments. What isn't on doubt is that a crime has been committed - people have been murdered.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

I think “reactionaries” is justified, I don’t care who the groups are or what they believe, but I accept that it’s what they believe which makes them do what they do.
Because you or I for that matter decide that someone is a murderer means nothing to the person we are talking about or the people who support him/her it just means that you/me think we are right.
it’s only my opinion but; you can call someone who carries a bomb into a crowd or on to a plane many things and you can justify most of them at least to yourself but one thing that I can’t justify is describing them as cowards, and before you get on you high horse that does not mean that I support them in any way, I think that trying to understand and prevent such things is more productive than talking tough but, don’t let me stop you, criminals? are you aware that Britain has locked up people as criminals and terrorists and changed it’s mind later for political reasons, most countries do this, I think you are a wee bit out of touch here.

Hemmerfru said...

"I accept that it’s what they believe which makes them do what they do... trying to understand and prevent such things is more productive than talking tough"

This is a key problem in dealing with terrorists. I wholeheartedly believe that engaging with the underlying causes of militant ideologies in order to undermine their base of support is key.

But... That's not to say you should engage with every group that decides to detonate a bomb on a bus. While the factors that created a culture in which they feel it's a reasonable course of action should be recognised and addressed, the narrative the terrorist group chooses to present as justification should not be treated as fact. Engagement with fantasies such as the Sunni extremism of al Qaeda or the ultra-nationalism of Combat 18 reifies and legitimises otherwise extreme positions.

"criminals?"

Yes, criminals. Not political prisoners ferreted off to Belmarsh or rendered to Egypt to be tortured. Someone shoots someone else: they have committed a crime under the current legal system. What's wrong with trying them in open court? If they can present a case for what they've done, that's the place for it, surely? Please note that I'm not suggesting secret trials or show trials.

"Cowards"

I haven't called anyone a coward. As I said before, that's a value judgment.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

(Hemmerfru) 10:04

“This is a key problem in dealing with terrorists. I wholeheartedly believe that engaging with the underlying causes of militant ideologies in order to undermine their base of support is key”

“Undermining their base of support” would only be valid if they were wrong. It’s another knee jerk reaction which assumes that you have a monopoly on right and wrong; that attitude is part of the problem.

“detonate a bomb on a bus. While the factors that created a culture in which they feel it's a reasonable course of action”

The idea that anyone thinks a bomb on a bus is “a reasonable course of action” is risible, it’s a drastic, desperate and to some people; a heroic thing to do, I think you have a problem suggesting that anyone finds it reasonable.

“Yes, criminals. Not political prisoners ferreted off to Belmarsh or rendered to Egypt to be tortured. Someone shoots someone else: they have committed a crime under the current legal system”

Criminal is a very emotive word to describe a dangerous and determined person who believes that it’s right and just to do what he /she is doing, people think of criminals as bank robbers, thieves, rapists etc. once again you look like part of the problem. South Africa was; year on year the capital punishment champion of the world; but what they were doing was legal, they were hanging law breakers; or sending them to prison like Mandela (another terrorist right ? )

Hemmerfru said...

You're missing the point when you say this "“Undermining their base of support” would only be valid if they were wrong. It’s another knee jerk reaction which assumes that you have a monopoly on right and wrong; that attitude is part of the problem."

I'll use Palestinian terrorism as an example - though this sort of hinges on the basic idea that no-one deserves to be killed, no matter what their ideology, so I hope you're with me on that.

What's the underlying cause of people joining groups like the al Aqsa Matyrs' Brigade? It's poverty, state agression by Israel, etc. etc. It isn't that the wacky interpetation of Islam is attractive - it's that nothing else offers hope. So, the best way to undermine these groups' base of support is to make the situation better for the Palestinians - remove the root causes for radicalisation.

Identifying the problems at the bottom of a cycle of violence and acting to solve them doesn't mean you have to accept any old rubbish spouted by people affected by the problem, surely?

"The idea that anyone thinks a bomb on a bus is “a reasonable course of action” is risible"

No, it's part of a reasoned strategy of attack. So, it's been deemed reasonable by the perpetrators.

"Criminal is a very emotive word to describe a dangerous and determined person who believes that it’s right and just to do what he /she is doing"

So is terrorist. I know how I'd rather treat Neo-Nazis who attack synagogues or mosques - but following your reasoning, as long as they firmly believe "it’s right and just to do what he /she is doing", we should recognise they're making a valid political point and not treat them as criminals.

South Africa kind of supports my general point in that the apartheid regime weren't interested in addressing the root causes of ANC violence. The cycle of violence and radicalisation continued until this happened - through the soft pressures of economics, international diplomacy and a shift in public opinion rather than as a result of violent resistance.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

(Hemmerfru) 10:29

“I'll use Palestinian terrorism as an example - though this sort of hinges on the basic idea that no-one deserves to be killed, no matter what their ideology, so I hope you're with me on that”

Absolutely not with you on that, I’m not a pacifist; there are lots of people that I would quite gladly dig up and shoot again. I am opposed to capital punishment but; killing someone in a fight that you believe to be just, like the Palestinians is not the same thing.

“the best way to undermine these groups' base of support is to make the situation better for the Palestinians”

No argument there but you overlook a rather big problem, it’s not me who is suffering occupation, racism, apartheid etc. The really difficult question is to ask yourself what you would do in their position, I would love to think that I would have the courage to throw stones at an Israeli tank.

“doesn't mean you have to accept any old rubbish spouted by people affected by the problem, surely?”

You have to decide whether it’s rubbish or a just cause.

“No, it's part of a reasoned strategy of attack. So, it's been deemed reasonable by the perpetrators”

Absolute nonsense; it’s not a reasonable measure; it’s a measure borne out of rage, despair and desperation, something that you and I can’t even begin to understand.

“we should recognise they're making a valid political point”

You are beginning to unravel; this is a lie; show me where I said this, you are sailing close to the wind here, I’m happy to debate with you but, I’m not putting up with lies.

Your last para. misses the point and now I’m wondering if you are deliberately missing that point; did you not say something along the lines of “ If someone shoots someone dead ; against the law of the country then they are a criminal”

The point is; according to you the ANC members were criminals right? and the S.A. Govt. were entitled to hang them as law breakers right?

Try to stick to the point; this is not about what brought about the downfall of the white S.A. regime.

Hemmerfru said...

You're calling me a liar, but there's a flaw in your argument...

You said my position was reactionary and indicated I felt I had a "a monopoly on right and wrong" when I said it was important to undermine the support for terrorist groups by addressing the factors that drive people in to their arms. You said working against terrorists in this way would only be good "if they were wrong".

So, how do you decide what's right and wrong without creating your own monopoly? To me and you, burning down a mosque would be wrong because we don't share the racist ideology of neo-nazis. However, to them it's not just justifiable, but imperative to do so. We choose our subjective viewpoint, they choose theirs - as soon as you oppose their narrative, you're making a judgment on right and wrong, making you as 'reactionary' as me.

When you say "Unfortunately for your argument there are many people who don’t share your analysis of who is and is not a a criminal gangster and who is a freedom fighter", you're further criticising your own position. There are people that disagree with me, and people that disagree with you. Who's right? You're back to making absolutist judgments based on your concept of objective truth again.

The point is that if you've taken a standpoint, you've undermined your argument about the invalidity of ethical monopolies, because you've done the same. If you haven't got a standpoint, you're saying all opinions are equal, including the ones you don't like such as those of the ultra-right.

I can address your other points later, if you like.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

Perhaps you could start by addressing the following you accused me of saying this “we should recognise they're making a valid political point”

I said “You are beginning to unravel; this is a lie; show me where I said this, you are sailing close to the wind here, I’m happy to debate with you but, I’m not putting up with lies.

You haven’t done this I’m beginning to suspect that you want me to cut you off.

I have said all along that each case has to be judged on its merits and you have to use your own judgement, you now seem to be accepting this.

I have always tried to avoid absolutist judgements, you are the one guilty of generalising the issues not me, you said that if someone kills someone against the law of the country then they are criminals and should be treated as such and I referred you to apartheid South Africa, you have ignored that as well.

Your position is that if someone commits a crime against a country’s laws they should be treated as criminals, I’m pointing out to you that that includes the criminals who committed crimes against Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Pinochet, Franco not forgetting various British Leaders, I see that as a right wing reactionary position and no amount of convoluted semantics makes it anything else, trying to shift on to the causes of White South Africa’s demise was rather weak. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say you didn’t give it enough thought before launching in to this.

Hemmerfru said...

No, I thought we'd go for one argument at a time. So, the first one was you calling me a liar.

You selectively quoted me. I said "following your reasoning, as long as they firmly believe "it’s right and just to do what he /she is doing", we should recognise they're making a valid political point and not treat them as criminals". I've bolded the important bit - it's not what you said but where your logic leads. Your original statement to me was that I felt I had a "monopoly on right and wrong" and that made me reactionary. So, you don't have a monopoly on right and wrong because you're not reactionary (I assume, as you link it to right wing) therefore you won't judge which struggles are worthy and which aren't: all grievances must then have equal validity in your eyes.

So, Combat 18 and al Qaeda are terrorists not criminals. Terrorism has an ideological intent. By calling them terrorists and following anti-terror laws, you are legitimising this political dimension. It might be convoluted semantics to you, but in terms of how groups are viewed and dealt with, it's very, very important. It's also fairly basic identity politics.

Seems like that's not what you actually meant though. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say you didn’t give it enough thought before launching into this.

As for generalising the issues, I said the people that carried out these attacks: the ones you mentioned in your original post. I didn't say 'everyone's a criminal'! The shootings which sparked this debate were carried out by a fringe group - not part of some mass armed resistance. As I said earlier, "For the vast majority of people in the region, the violent part of this conflict is over: those who prefer the bullet to the ballot have no place in the future of Northern Ireland, whatever that may be."

As I didn't take the line on SA you were accusing me of, I didn't feel the need to defend myself from your strawmen. What I said in response to your sneering 'bet you'd say Mandela was a terrorist, eh?' gambit is that the whole South African situation supports my general point that violence doesn't solve anything - dealing with the underlying reasons for the violence does. I include state-sponsored violence in that.

People beaten to death in police custody ended up just as dead as those necklaced in the townships. But did death at the hands of either side help to effect change, alter the opinion of the other side or end apartheid? Nope. Could both sides construct a narrative to justify it? Yep.

I suppose what it boils down to is that you feel murder can be politically justifiable and I don't. Ghandi put it well: "I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent." If you smash some eggs to make your omlette, you end up eating shell...

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

“"Following your reasoning,”

a slippery semantic trick and quite underhand. You have decided where my reasoning takes us then, needless to say you are wrong.

Following your! reasoning if someone had murdered Hitler or Pinochet or Franco they would have been criminals and deserved to be treated as such.

“I suppose what it boils down to is that you feel murder can be politically justifiable and I don't”

I suppose what it boils down to is that you believe that someone killing a tyrant like Hitler or Franco is a murderer and I don’t.

I prefer my position and I will continue to look at issues without knee jerk prejudice.

This has; I think; gone far enough.