Sir - Having given Ms. Teresa O’Donnell some space in your paper to state her views on the murder of Ronan Kerr (which she calls, ‘a tragedy’, despite justifying it) and the present campaign of violence in general, perhaps you will allow me some space to give mine.
I do not intend trying to persuade Ms. O’Donnell that the murder was wrong, from a moral point of view. She will, no doubt, justify it on the grounds of the ‘ongoing conflict’ and what she calls the ‘British occupation’. And as regards the murderers, they will answer to a higher judge. It is not for me to judge the morality of the deed.
No, my point is to attempt to point out how utterly futile and useless the murder was and how the reasons for this could possibly be justified, back in the mists of time, but not in 2011.
Firstly, let us go back, say, one hundred and sixty odd years. Famine was rife in Ireland and countless thousands were dying from starvation. The Irish in their own country had no food, they had no land, they had no voice. There were no elected representatives, people could not own property, they were simply serfs in their own land. The British ruled with an iron fist and their work on the ground carried out by landlords and their factors, all backed up by a military force. So violence was the only way to try to free oneself from these shackles.
Whether it was right or wrong, matters not. There was no other way. While Ireland starved, a record amount of foodstuff was exported from our quays, the British Exchequer and the landlords profiting nicely, thank you very much. The British took the taxes and rents for their own coffers.
Now skip forward to 2011 in Northern Ireland. Not alone does the British government not gain from taxation, they are pumping money in to keep the ‘province’ afloat! So the argument here is spurious. And now, there are other methods. People have a voice, a vote.
Secondly, as I have stated, the police and military in those days and indeed under the old Stormont regime, were indeed tools of the British government and the powers that were. The Police Service in Northern Ireland today is not, it is a community police. It is a Police Service, not a Police Force. The Police Service is also accountable to the people, through Policing Boards.
Thirdly, we have elected representatives to speak on our behalf; we have a vote. And no matter how much Ms. O’Donnell talks about the ‘right’ of dissidents, the people of Ireland - not Britain - voted for the Good Friday, or Belfast, Agreement. It is the will of the people of all Ireland, that violence should not be used to pursue political ends. That is a simple fact and if the dissidents do not listen, then they are simply fascists.
Fourthly, what exactly does Ms. O’Donnell and the spokespersons for these people, like the 32 County group, mean when they call for a British withdrawal? Does that mean as well as a military and constitutional withdrawal, also a withdrawal of say, Asda or Sainsbury’s, or Benetton, etc? Because they could be classed as a British presence, if one wanted to illogically argue this. Then who’s next? Descendants of the Plantation? - after all they, or most of them, class themselves as British. Does Ms. O’Donnell not realise that not alone are we no longer under the British yoke? In fact,the British themselves are not even under their own yoke; we are all part of a grand European plan, we are subject to the rules of Europe. It is Berlin that dictates our life. Indeed, Adolf must be laughing in his grave. So were the dissidents to succeed in forcing the British ‘out’ (which they haven’t a hope in hell of doing), will they then start a campaign of violence to get rid of British business, like those named above? And after the ‘British withdrawal’, will there be a campaign of violence ‘to get the Europeans out’?
Fifthly, talking about Adolf, the dissidents and their apologists continually talk about the ‘British problem’ (of occupation, British presence, etc. etc.). By continually using the word ‘problem’, this suggests a ‘solution’ (which only they have, they claim). This word ‘problem’ was also a tactic of the Nazis. By talking continually about the ‘Jewish problem’, this necessitated a ‘solution’ and we all know what their solution was.
Lastly, I come to, what I consider, to be the most flawed of the dissidents’ arguments. I hear no one asking the following question - “Is your aim to get the British presence out of Northern Ireland, lock stock and barrel, or a United Ireland?” Because these are two completely separate arguments.
Supposing the dissidents did succeed in getting the British to withdraw (and I repeat, they haven’t a hope in hell), what then? After the last British soldier has stepped on the boat and the Union flag is lowered, what flag is then raised? Probably the Ulster flag. Supposing the people of Northern Ireland say (to the South), “OK lads, we are in a new situation, let’s be friends in the meantime, but no more”, then what happens? A vote on unity cannot be taken throughout all Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is an independent sovereign state and it cannot simply say, “OK folks, fine, let’s all join together” and have a vote on it.
Only the people of Northern Ireland can decide their future and if a vote in Northern Ireland did not return a majority in favour of uniting with the South, then that’s the end of the story. So, what do the dissidents do then? Bomb people together?
Supposing the people of Northern Ireland say, “No, we will go independent”, will the campaign of violence to get rid of the British have been a failure or a success? Do the dissidents think that a new campaign of violence will be launched to unite the two countries? Because that’s where it all falls down.
Whatever chance of bombing people out, you simply cannot bomb people together; it drives them further apart. You might as well have someone start a bombing campaign to unite North and South Korea or starting a campaign of violence in the hope of uniting the peoples of India and Pakistan. Of course they were once one people, of course the British made a bollocks of it, but history is history, the past is past and India and Pakistan are now separate countries and that’s the way it is. You cannot turn the clock back.
So, Ms. O’Donnell, what I am saying is, the old arguments are gone and your attempts to create a ‘problem’, therefore justifying a ‘solution’, is as futile and as spurious as Adolf’s ‘Jewish problem’. The old order is gone, all the dissidents are doing is uniting people against them. There is no shame in saying ‘enough is enough’.
You see, Ms. O’Donnell, despite what you believe, Ireland is already free - free to vote, free to have a voice. And that voice, all over Ireland, is saying ‘Stop’. Let us all live in peace and you know what? Maybe sooner than you think, we will have your unity - but to murder a young man like Ronan Kerr, only pushes your dream back. Forget the old ways, they are gone - even the Provos eventually wised up.