There is not too much in the mainstream press nowadays about Northern Ireland. The grown-ups would have you believe it’s all gone away and that there is indeed peace over there. Old-school terrorism became unfashionable with the new wave of Islamic groups and the fact that they brought terrorism to U.S. shores. Revenue once pouring in for so-called freedom fighters has all but dried up; people are refusing to pass the bucket around for these troublemakers. You can be patriotic and support your roots on Paddy’s Day without funding bloodshed. Does this mean that it’s now all roses, peace, and love across the water from the U.K. mainland? Other than the fact that all the soldiers have left the streets, it’s pretty much business as usual, with the once-generals of the various terror groups all marauding round on the so-called political circuit. Balaclavas have been traded for suits, and they are now all politicians.
The U.K. government brokered deals in a hurry to sweep the whole thing under the carpet. Promises were made that convictions would be quashed and that investigations would cease. Bases and outposts were vacated and taken down. The soldiers went home. It all happened almost overnight, as if 24-odd years of violence had never happened. Well it did happen, and many people on both sides of the conflict are far from ready to forgive and forget. There are still those waiting in the wings for any opportunity to strike at a unified Ireland—they’re even willing to forget that Ireland couldn’t support what it had and went bust.
Theirs was an economy that couldn’t afford to take on another load of counties, the majority of which didn’t want anything to do with them. Anyone in the know from south of the border took out great big loans and fled for Spain with no intention of ever paying anything back. The normal people who were left behind were reduced to not being able to afford what they had, and some even took their own lives in desperation. At least in the north there is still healthcare, education, and a welfare system in place. That’s the Brits all over: As long as the majority want in, they are fought for. Ask the Falkland Islanders or anyone who lives in Gibraltar. In the very beginning, the British troops were over there to protect the estates of those who eventually, after a honeymoon period, turned on them.
Now, with things still in the balance, the sensible thing for the Irish authorities to do would be to just keep their heads down and react as required. But trouble is stirring following the announcement that the government will be looking to open cases against British soldiers involved in incidents dating back years. In fact, veterans as old as 70 are being targeted. An organisation called Veterans for Justice (UK) had planned to march through Londonderry or Derry, depending on how you see things. They have now withdrawn their application, as it received stiff opposition, opponents saying they were just trying to cause trouble. John Kelly, who lost his brother in the Bloody Sunday incident, said, “It would have achieved nothing other than to incite, anger, and upset.” However, on the turn of the coin, why should soldiers who put their lives at risk trying to stabilise the place now be held to book for carrying out orders? I am not sure why the government would choose to open up old wounds and go after soldiers for doing their jobs and following orders, but it has backfired through the roof on them.
Unfortunately, it is mainly special forces soldiers who are going to come under scrutiny. It was a dirty campaign in which normal soldiering tactics were ineffective. The Republican gangs wanting to be treated like prisoners of war, but weren’t fighting like soldiers. (Wanting their cake and to fucking eat it, too.) They are still licking their wounds and suffering losses. Nothing is being done for the casualties they caused, and nothing is being done to the people who caused them—even though, in many cases, their identities are well-known. That is true of terrorists from both sides of the community; they are all guilty of heinous acts. Anyone who supports them is not in line with what is good for the United Kingdom.
Soldiers were sent there. It was a problem they went to assist with. They acted upon the orders they were given. In conflict, bad things happen, and it is wrong to then go back over the whole thing and hold people to book unless they have been operating outside of what they were supposed to be doing. Let’s have a few of the politicians in the dock to answer a few questions. Let’s drag the real decision-makers into the fray, the ones who make their decisions in comfy offices, not from a ditch while under fire. Point taken, I hope. The strife in Northern Ireland is far from over, and I am sure in the months to come, I will be writing more about all of this.
Featured image courtesy of flashbak.com