Why do unionists want republicans to say they’re sorry?

Passing off the political disguised as the private is a familiar sleight-of-hand here. What you do is, you present your case as one which has nothing to do with politics. Then if you get the desired response, the matter becomes political. Sometimes the people presenting their case don’t even realize  their private case is being used for a political outcome.

One such example in recent days involved Dr David Clements, a Protestant clergyman whose father Billy, an RUC reservist, was killed by the IRA in 1985. Dr Clements has revealed that he wrote to Martin McGuinness at the end of January, praising him for his good work in furthering peace here and calling on him to issue an apology for killing his father Billy.

On the face of it that’s a moving, human request, to hope that your father’s killer or the person involved with an organization linked to your father’s killer, should see the error of his ways and say he is sorry for what happened.

Except that even those most deeply hurt by the Troubles, such as Dr Clements, must surely  be aware that this is not just a personal matter.

Let’s suppose for a minute that Martin McGuinness had responded to Dr Clements’s letter and had said he was sorry for what happened and that it was wrong that it should have occurred. That would mean that, to be logical, Martin McGuinness should have contacted all those families affected by IRA killings and told them he was sorry, what happened was wrong. In short, he’d be conceding what the British government and its agencies, along with many unionists, have long argued: that the IRA was in the wrong, British state forces were right, and militant republicans were simply criminals.

The fact is, Martin McGuinness and the IRA did not believe and do not believe they were criminals. Ten men in Long Kesh died on hunger strike in their determination to underline that point. They saw and see the British government and British military as being in the wrong, with no right to rule this part of Ireland and/or abuse its nationalist/republican community. While Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams have expressed regret that the deaths of the Troubles occurred, they have been clear that they believed those opposed to them should be the ones to say sorry, or more important to give up their grip on a part of their neighbour’s country.

This private/political distinction is an important one for republican to maintain. If they do not, then the British government with its Unionist allies here will write the history of the last forty years as an orgy of blood-letting conducted by a bunch of deranged murderers.

I doubt if any self-respecting republican will accept such a characterization of them and their armed campaign.

54 Responses to Why do unionists want republicans to say they’re sorry?

  1. paddy maguire March 31, 2017 at 9:41 am #

    Republican terrorists, never British terrorists

  2. billy March 31, 2017 at 9:49 am #

    you sound mixed up.why is it wrong now but ok in 1985.

  3. fiosrach March 31, 2017 at 9:55 am #

    Explain yourself,Billy.

  4. giordanobruno March 31, 2017 at 9:58 am #

    If only these victims would just shut up and stop whinging.
    It’s all a bit embarrassing frankly.

    • Jude Collins March 31, 2017 at 10:37 am #

      You’ve missed the point, gio – I’m sure not deliberately…

      • giordanobruno March 31, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

        Should David Clements and others like him refrain from asking for such an apology because it might upset some political party?
        That seems to be what you are saying.
        He may be a small u unionist I don’t know, but as far as I know he is not part of any Unionist party.
        Why should he care if republicans do not want to answer.
        If I was him I would have been writing to McGuinness or whoever every week.

        • Jude Collins April 1, 2017 at 1:52 pm #

          “Should David Clements and others like him refrain from asking for such an apology because it might upset some political party?
          That seems to be what you are saying.”

          Well, gio, I admire what you winkle out of a ‘seems’. David Clements should ask or not ask what he wishes, and in the circumstances it’d be totally understandable if he asked for an apology for the killing of his father. I wouldn’t dream of faulting him or anyone in similar circumstances. The point I thought I had made was that what appears intensely and solely personal has a major political dimension. If Martin McGuinness were to have apologised and said the killing was wrong, logic would suggest he say the same to the relatives of every other victim, which would mean he was rejecting the entire IRA campaign as a series of criminal murders. That’s not how he saw the IRA campaign and neither did the many other IRA people. It was good that David Cameron should have apologised for Bloody Sunday, but two things: (i) he was apologising for the state’s own forces killing its citizens – which we’ve always been told were the ‘security forces’, and so diametrically different from terrorists/paramilitaries, whose wages citizens didn’t pay; and (ii) How odd that it took hundreds of millions of pounds and several decades before he got round to it. In fact, he and successive British prime ministers did all they could to prevent the truth about Bloody Sunday coming out. And, having said it was wrong, there was no question of any British soldier or officer serving a day in prison for it.

          I know it would fit more neatly into the thesis of some people if a clear IRA=bad, ‘security forces’ = good could be established, but we know that is a caricature of the Troubles. Doesn’t mean they stop trying or that they accuse anyone who disagrees as trying ‘to rewrite history’. If it weren’t so ghastly it’d be laughable.

          • giordanobruno April 1, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

            I agree that the personal battles of victims and their families can be seized on by political parties to be used rather cynically. Unionists parties do it as do Sinn Fein.
            None of us can tell someone like David Clements that itis naive of them to seek an apology for we cannot say we would act any differently ourselves.
            I think from what you say we are in agreement on that.
            Dr Clements may well know (being an intelligent man) that it would havebeen very difficult for Martin McGuinness to make an apology, but he may feel it was important to ask any way.
            It is not necessarily the case though, that an apology is impossible. You yourself give an example of Cameron’s apology for Bloody Sunday and that did not lead to him apologising for every action of the British Army.
            Maybe even those who think the IRA were broadly justified (a just war if you like) could accept that some of their actions were wrong within that war, say the killing of Joanne Mathers or Enniskillen for example.
            What do you think?
            Finally I have often seen you talk about the security forces in the way you do above, as in how they should be held to a higher standard because they are the forces of the state.
            Is that your own personal view or just what you think should be the view of wider society?. I am never quite clear.
            Some would say the IRA considered themselves the rightful army of the Irish state so perhaps they should be held to a higher standard,

      • PF March 31, 2017 at 4:53 pm #

        Let’s cut to the chase then, Dr. Collins.

        In your opinion, did people have to die for us to get to where we are today?

        • jessica March 31, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

          “In your opinion, did people have to die for us to get to where we are today?”

          What do you mean Peter?

          The people killed by the police because their community had the audacity to seek civil rights?
          The people killed during the conflict or all of the lives impacted by it?
          I would say no to all.

          The british state should not have allowed unionism to have sole control over any part of Ireland let alone abuse control the way they did for as long as they did.
          Had Britain behaved responsibly, then equality would have happened without the need to go through decades of conflict.

          It was a sheer bloody waste of life and wasted time.
          But I am surprised it didn’t happen sooner. It took a hell of a lot of provocation in my view before there was a serious reaction.

          As for where we are.
          The majority of unionists haven’t changed as far as I can see.
          The British still don’t give a shit
          Unionism doesn’t feel any responsibility for starting the conflict and is as intransigent as ever.
          Where exactly do you think we are?

          • PF March 31, 2017 at 9:23 pm #

            What I mean is simple.

            No one *had* to die.

            Everyone who caused a death had a choice. For example:

            Bloody Sunday wasn’t necessary and shouldn’t have happened. As David Cameron said in the House of Commons, “What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong… The government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces and for that, on behalf of the government, indeed, on behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry.”

            No one had to die at the hands of Loyalist Paramilitaries. It shouldn’t have happened and it was wrong. There was no justification for any of these murders.

            Neither was there any justification for discrimination in Northern Ireland.

            Edward Carson speaking in the Commons in 1920 said, “… forget faction and section …… If Ulster does what I ask her to do, and what I hope and believe she will do, in setting up an example and a precedent of good government, fair government, honest government, and a government not for sections or factions, but for all, her example may be followed …”

            That this did not happen was wrong.

            And all I have said (about ‘my’ side – I use that phrase loosely) I have said without qualification.

            You and I pretty much know each other’s opinions; I am also interested in Dr Collins’s.

    • Ryan March 31, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

      Just waiting for Gio to add “No Surrender” to his comments. Very disappointing, especially given we’re in the year 2017, I’m sure back 20 years ago people would’ve expected us to be miles ahead today than where we currently are but we still have a lot of people who deliberately miss the point because tribalism against “them’uns” is still a factor. Not giving “them’uns” an inch in any way is more important than understanding and seeing the bigger picture.

      The irony is Unionism needs reconciliation to work a lot more than Nationalism does. Sinn Fein’s recent election result is just the beginning, even Unionist Unity wont put a stop to that.

      • giordanobruno March 31, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

        What are you on about?
        Why would I add ‘no surrender’?
        You seem to be making the mistake of thinking anyone who cares about IRA victims must be a Unionist.

        • jessica March 31, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

          Who do think believes you care about IRA victims?

          Anyone who would take one group of victims in isolation from others in the same conflict, who would totally ignore the root causes of the conflict to focus on their pet hate project has very little to offer in my opinion.

          You are deluded if you think otherwise.

          • giordanobruno March 31, 2017 at 6:47 pm #

            Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Perkin Warbeck March 31, 2017 at 10:03 am #


    Sorry’s the word off the back of a lorry
    Fell; picked up by them who yell at Jorry:
    Top of the Croppies
    Kneel an’ apologise
    Or, pick up yon pick, get back in the quarry !

  6. Cal March 31, 2017 at 10:42 am #

    Has the reverend issued an apology on his late father’s behalf for all the murders carried out by the RUC ? Surely he has, otherwise he may be acting like a hypocrite.

    • ANOTHER JUDE April 1, 2017 at 5:42 am #

      My guess would be the latter.

    • giordanobruno April 1, 2017 at 8:14 am #

      A pathetic attempt at deflection.
      Try harder.

  7. fiosrach March 31, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    But,Cal,the RUC were acting with the full authority of the British state. They got British wages and wore British uniforms and murdered with British guns. They were not terrorist riff raff. Decent people protecting the ‘community’ from terrorist riff raff at no small cost to themselves and their British employers. What have they got to apologise for? Why should they wear sackcloth and ashes?

    • Mark March 31, 2017 at 11:11 am #

      Ta bron orm fiosrach nach, a lot of the IRA were getting brit wages too, some living not far from yourself.

      • fiosrach March 31, 2017 at 11:27 am #

        I think ‘a lot’ is overstating it, Mark. True or not,it’s not relevant unless you want them to say sorry.

    • ANOTHER JUDE April 1, 2017 at 5:44 am #

      Also their guns were not ‘weapons of death’. Only Republicans used those.

  8. Mark March 31, 2017 at 11:09 am #

    All children here now should be asked to watch, with open minds, this programme.
    This is what things were like before they were born, this is why people fought for equality and respect, one contributor had lost her brother at the hands of armed loyalist militia, aka the british army when he was eleven years old.
    One could engage in ‘whataboutery’ with, what role did your Father play in beating Catholics for no reason other than the school uniform they wore indicated they did not go to the Protestant schools, one could ask, what was the result of the inquest of your Fathers death, as opposed to the many suspended inquests into deaths of Irish people, simply because the true role of brit engagement in a dirty war may come out, or the in quests held but having truth covered up, which their, now, police ombudsman, refuses to examine because of lack of resources.
    I am certain David Clements and his family have been dreadfully impacted by the death of this RUC man, no less so than the families of Irish people killed by their forces and their controlled paramilitary wing, however, time to recognise the bad committed on all sides and employ some truth and reconciliation body to investigate on behalf of the young gaisun killed after finding weapons in a north Antrim graveyard which the brit’s had under survellience, the family of a young disabled man running from brit’s because he was frightened between Portmór and Benburb so they can all know the truth.

  9. Wolfe tone March 31, 2017 at 11:18 am #

    No Irish republican will apologise for fighting to rid the British state presence from Ireland. That would be like acknowledging the British state had a right to be here in the first place. Alas allowing the narrative to be about a ‘fight for equality’ could certainly see an apology from some quarters in the near future.

    • giordanobruno March 31, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

      Within that article is a link to an even more pertinent one by Ed Moloney.
      Chilling stuff.

      • Wolfe tone March 31, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

        Gio, as far as I am concerned Ed can do one. Some folk will welcome his writings concerning the provisional leadership in the mistaken belief he is somehow crestfallen as well, as to how the leadership ran the movement. However I will only take Ed seriously when he pens a book or two on the complete injustice that the British establishment has treated Ireland and its people for centuries, full stop. When will Ed use his talents in order to convince folk that the British state had no right and never had a right to be in Ireland? All he bangs on about is Adams and McGuinness and taps into the anger some republicans may have with them pair. I would say to those same republicans, I may agree with your anger but don’t let anyone exploit your anger. In spite of this anger remember who the enemy is; look behind the curtain and you may possibly discover who is pulling the levers.

        Btw, I would say most volunteers were/would’ve been shocked and angry at the treatment of ms Moreland. To suggest this act was to placate grassroots volunteers is blatant bullsxxx and pure guessing. Fact is most grassroots would never have known of her existence for a start. And I would hazard a guess and say most volunteers wouldn’t have objected if the woman had been banished from the country. To generalise an allude that grassroots volunteers were baying for the blood of this girl is at the very least lazy or at the very most deliberately sinister. Let’s not forget who were running these so called nutting squads. A blind man can see how this can muddy the waters somewhat………Just like a blind man would have seen how shooting this woman would’ve have brought unwanted pressure and condemnation upon the IRA and their military campaign. Perhaps in the end that is why she was shot? Who knows? But grassroots most certainly had no say in her death that is for sure.

  10. fiosrach March 31, 2017 at 11:38 am #

    And your point is …….., joe? This article obviously impressed you. Is this the same News Letter that ran “SF are holding us all to ransom”?

  11. moser March 31, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    England has hundreds of years of shame in Ireland. Any person who wore a uniform, or carried a weapon, supplied by England is a terrorist. Any person who assisted these terrorists ie, through providing goods and services, was a collaborator.
    If your flag is the union Jack, then you share the collective shame of your nation. You also must share the collective shame for all the evil deeds committed against Catholics in the North and through out Ireland over the centuries. Republicans will never apologise for resisting that evil.

    • billy March 31, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

      person who wore.or still wear.can you be a bit more clear..

      • moser March 31, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

        I could never be clear enough for your blindness Billy.

  12. Pointis March 31, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    Dr Clements’ letter reflects a naivety on his behalf but also betrays an underlying belief held by many unionists, British Nationalists and large sections of the British and Irish media that the troubles were fermented by a very small number of malcontents in the IRA who should apologise for their actions throughout the war.

    Like Sinn Fein I think that any apology for individual actions should occur during an agreed truth and reconciliation process where every side including the British can come clean about their role in the conflict.

    Why does it seem that Nationalists and Republicans are more willing to embrace such a process?

    I think the answer lies in Jude’s piece, for many unionists they believe unionists did no wrong and the British just want to keep their dirty laundry private.

  13. RJC March 31, 2017 at 3:06 pm #

    ‘In Irish media discourse, there is a short list of -indisputably horrible-atrocities kept close to hand. The list includes Jean McConville, Kingsmill, Patsy Gillespie, the La Mon bombing. Items on this list are frequently used in relation to debate on any matter concerning the IRA. They are intended to function as an ace in the hole, as a display of impeccable ethical and moral judgment. But the casual use of such names reflects ignorance at best, and pure cynicism at worst.

    From my perspective, no-one involved in this game cares about any of these people. If they did, they would not be so casual in throwing their names around. If they had any genuine concern for what happened, they would also show some interest in the machinations of the British State in perpetrating atrocities throughout the period of the conflict. The would show some interest in holding that State to account. For the most part, they do not.’

    More words of wisdom from Richard/Hired Knave


  14. Alex March 31, 2017 at 3:30 pm #

    Ed Baloney as Martin called him, I agree.

  15. michael c March 31, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

    Ed is much less critical of those “republicans” in RSF etc who would have a different take on the peace process.

  16. Galloglaigh March 31, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

    Nelson McCauseland recently mentioned the 1641 rebellion, an event historiographers still argue over today. Irish unionism dare not let the British or Irish states’ release their files, as no doubt they’re balls deep with the so called security services directing traffic so to speak. They’ll fight till the last to preserve their fallacious narrative.

    The union which McCauseland wants this part of Ireland to remain part of, is responsible for the murder of millions; mayhem and destruction across the globe for centuries. Enslavement and land grabs; piracy on the high seas. They’re still at it with their colonial partners in the states and Israel, Saudi and elsewhere. That’s the hight of his morality, the suppression of others to keep him on a pedestal.

    The gold dripping from buildings in London is the product of others’ misery, not the product of a fews’ good fortune.

    They’ve a cheek! A brass neck!

  17. jessica March 31, 2017 at 9:48 pm #

    I guess sometimes things are easier said than done.

    For all the best intentions, it is very difficult to effect change and to do so while bringing large numbers of people with you is almost impossible.

    I think there is a growing number of people who want to put the past behind us and make the most out of what future we can build for our children whatever that may be. The future of this island will be decided on what they want and no one else.

    The south didn’t give a shit about us when they were raking it in, it wasn’t until brexit risked hurting their pockets that they took an interest and are now seeking special circumstances to help trade and keep peace.

    Unfortunately that is the reality. Neither of us matter Peter. Both Dublin and London will look out for their own best interests and the rest of us will be well down the pecking order of what is important.

    It was that lack of interest and neglect that allowed the divisions to foster in the first place and made conflict inevitable.

    No it didn’t have to happen, but I would presume we have learned anything from it.
    The same root causes, mistrust and divided loyalties still endure today.

  18. jessica April 1, 2017 at 8:25 am #

    You don’t think Ian Paisley has any blame in the conflict starting in the first place.
    For encouraging the police to kill innocent Catholics.

    Are you saying the unionist police back then were just thugs and criminals and killed just for malice without any political encouragement?

    Were the terror tactics against a peaceful civil rights movement not stirred up by Paisley but rather simply a manifestation of inherent unionist bigotry?

    What are you saying here gio if suggesting Paisley was responsible is simply deflection?

    Or is that once again, a conversation for another day?

    • giordanobruno April 1, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

      I am saying David Clements has nothing to apologise for.
      It is interesting how the first resort is always to whataboutery or deflection.
      No issue regarding what the IRA actually did ever gets addressed honestly.
      I expect it now, but maybe sneaking regarders for men of violence should ask themselves why they are so keen to avoid the subject.
      So off you go…Paisley, British Army, Carson, .Cromwell, Strongbow, whoever…God maybe?

      • Wolfe tone April 1, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

        “sneaking regarders for men of violence”

        Yip Gio, you would know about ‘sneaking’ that’s for sure. You sneak that much it has become tiresome and quite frankly boring.

        • giordanobruno April 1, 2017 at 8:45 pm #

          Don’t read it then!

  19. PF April 1, 2017 at 9:41 am #

    Did anyone have to die to get us to where we are today, Dr. Collins? It’s a straightforward enough question.

  20. PF April 1, 2017 at 11:12 am #

    Another question, Dr. Collins.

    In your opinion, did the IRA do anything they should apologise for?

    David Cameron apologised for something.

    Gusty Spence apologised for something – he even said, “Abject and true remorse.”

    In your opinion, Dr. Collins, did people have to die to get us to where we are today and is there anything that needs an apology?

  21. jessica April 1, 2017 at 11:21 am #

    “In your opinion, did the IRA do anything they should apologise for?”

    The IRA engaged in a conflict they did not start, they have no more need to apologise than any army in any conflict for their actions.
    I am not saying that all such armies don’t have anything to apologise for, only that you cannot pick and choose who apologises and who doesn’t.

    “In your opinion, Dr. Collins, did people have to die to get us to where we are today and is there anything that needs an apology?”

    Yes, the british state covering up the truth, even the forged papers that convicted the Guildford Four, which are known to exist and are known to be forged are still being denied to the legal teams even after all these decades.

    This despicable cover up needs not only an apology but to end and all such evidence to be released where it is known to exist.

  22. PF April 1, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    So is that a yes or a no, Jessica?

    Some apologies are already on record; I was wondering if any others need to be added to what is already there?

    Although it’s really Dr. Collins’s opinion I’m interested in.

  23. jessica April 1, 2017 at 11:48 am #

    I think the apology they made for the killing of all non combatants is more than the british army has done.
    So no, I think their efforts at peace building and commitments have not been matched by the british army or the british state and they have nothing further to apologise for.

    That IRA no longer exists and the responsibility has been handed over to democratic politics to create the circumstances where another IRA is not needed,

    That is where the focus should remain.

    • PF April 1, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

      How would you describe those circumstances?

      • jessica April 1, 2017 at 2:39 pm #

        An agreed Ireland Peter, where your views are equally as important as mine

        • PF April 1, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

          But we already have an agreement. Beyond that, Ireland isn’t worth another death.

          Still dont know what Dr. Collins thinks about it, though.

  24. PF April 1, 2017 at 3:29 pm #

    Come to think of it, none of the Kingdoms of this world are worth dying for.

  25. jessica April 1, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

    The GFA is not an agreed Ireland Peter, it is only a framework for achieving one.
    And the commitments in it, have not even been honoured or even pursued with any real effort by both states.
    It was simply sufficient to end the violence and wash their hands off the problem.

  26. PF April 1, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

    The Belfast Agreement is an agreement, hence the word ‘agreement’ in its title. Although I do see your point as the Agreement could hardly be described a framework for remaining in the Union, or Uniting Ireland within the Union – any vote faces in one direction only.

    We agreed (amongst other things), however, that a new Ireland would be according to the democratic wishes of the people – that is how it should be. If the independent United Irelanders win the argument, so be it.

    But neither Ireland nor Northern Ireland are worth another life and they never were; and I certainly won’t be giving my life for either, support anyone who did, anyone who encouraged others to do so, or who attempted to explain why it was ever so.

    But I’m still interested in Dr. Collins’s view.

  27. Emmet April 1, 2017 at 11:43 pm #

    All this debate seems senseless. Unionist don’t at heart want an apology. They need to hang on to reasons to hate their enemies. It is a political stance on their part to be able to say ‘they have not said sorry’ (in the past it was ‘they won’t condemn violence, support police decommission etc.) If you don’t believe me think of it this way- if you are a republican- do you want an apology from the British government for their dirty war? Any republican I know doesn’t give a crap whether the British Government says sorry or not. Even if they do it means nothing and just shows them to be hypocrites. The bloody Sunday apology for example showed the complete shallowness of the Brits words. They said sorry but did not even hint at why they set up a fake inquiry to provide propaganda and a later lesser but still not truthful inquiry but planted seeds of doubt that one of the young boys was carrying explosive (bullshit) and that Martin Guinness was carrying a gun (also bullshit). No explanation of why the bloody Sunday architects were promoted and given medals by the queen and they still protect the murderers and give them their army pension for serving the queen. I’d say anyone demanding an apology is at best naive.