Sinn Fein’s propaganda campaign has convinced nationalists north and south that the IRA had ‘no alternative’ but to go to war
Published: 23 November 2022
Few love the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill, the debate on which has been staggering its way through the House of Lords since November 2.
Its purpose is to try to address glaring unfairnesses that have emerged since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, such as the disproportionate prosecutions of police and soldiers – which happen mainly because republican terrorists keep no incriminating records, are forensically canny, are trained to withstand interrogation (unlike their loyalist opposite numbers), and have working for them Sinn Fein, a rich political party skilled in lawfare that has armies of lawyers at its disposal who brilliantly exploit a system that has the state spending tens of millions on legal aid for people who hate it.
What’s more, the Irish government is partisan while the British bend over backwards to demonstrate impartiality, not least in their public appointments, and you can see why retired members of the security forces being grilled about long-ago events feel they have almost no friends.
On top of all that, the Sinn Fein Ministry of Truth has waged a brilliant propaganda campaign that has convinced a majority of nationalists north and south, as well as the ignorant with no memory of the savagery, cruelty and carnage of the Troubles, that the IRA – in the words of Michelle O’Neill, destined to be First Minister – had “no alternative” but to go to war.
She and the rest of the Sinn Fein leadership publicly extol dead murderers and represent perpetrators as victims and victims as perpetrators. And the myth that there was widespread collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries – whom in fact they put into jail in large numbers – has also taken root.
Unsurprisingly, the majority working in the massive Northern Ireland human rights industry show little interest in terrorists and focus on the sins of the state.
Johnny Mercer, the Minister of State for Veterans’ Affairs, some months ago said bitterly that the state had failed the bereaved and the veterans. “There are no winners in legacy. It is a mess. The whole thing is a disaster. But we have to do what we can to bring some sort of end, finality and truth to this process for the victims.”
It was in an effort to stop octogenarian servants of the state being dragged into court while terrorists whistled happy tunes outside that a decision was taken to draw a line by offering a form of immunity to those co-operating with a new truth recovery body. (That in itself is laughable, since terrorists rarely tell an incriminating truth.)
The long title of the Bill indicated the complexity: “A Bill to address the legacy of the Northern Ireland Troubles and promote reconciliation by establishing an Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery, limiting criminal investigations, legal proceedings, inquests and police complaints, extending the prisoner release scheme in the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998, and providing for experiences to be recorded and preserved and for events to be studied and memorialised.”
So far most of the battles for truth about the past have been lost. As the courageous University of Ulster politics lecturer Dr Cillian McGrattan has pointed out, the debate has been “skewed towards an ahistorical, anti-state and republican position and the disarticulation of the memory of the middle ground of moderate unionists and nationalists who resisted the violence” – which the Government is unwittingly funding through UK Research and Innovations Councils (UKRICs). “The history of the nexus of academics, anti-state human rights activists and UKRICs has meant that the latter has funded a monopolistic capture of legacy ideas, ideology and policy within Northern Ireland”.
He calls for an urgent review into this funding and government commitment to searching for the truth through opening the archives and giving resources to the “official history” that is being mooted.
Professor Thomas Hennessy of Canterbury Christ Church echoes McGrattan when he says that without archival history, there will be no way of securing “a balanced and proportionate picture of the past … We owe it to ourselves to fully understand what happened in the conflict, not one version of it.”
The Government could salvage something from the mess by taking the steps to give Troubles victims in the future the truth and justice they have hitherto been denied.