You may have noted that Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson has tweeted an apology for her tweet. Her initial tweet was that victims’ pensions would go to those who took Britain’s side in ‘the dirty war’. In her second tweet she apologised “unreservedly’ for the hurt and offence her initial tweet might have caused people who suffered serious harm during the conflict.
Which is fair enough. Nobody should do things that’ll deepen the pain felt by those harmed in the Troubles. But in the gap between the first and the second tweet, the usual suspects have surfaced.
Gary Middleton DUP MLA has demanded that Sinn Féin “sanction” Martina.
The UUP’s Doug Beattie has said Sinn Féin are “committed to justifying the murderous criminality of the IRA”.
The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has damned Martina Anderson’s tweet (the first one) as “unacceptable, disgusting and grossly insulting to hundreds of victims who sustained life-changing injuries.”
And Naomi Long, Alliance Party leader, says Sinn Féin hadn’t the right to “launch such vitriol” or to smear victims.
None of Martina Anderson’s critics has got past the condemnation stage to query the claim made. In that first tweet she claimed £800 million in pensions would mainly go to people who were engaged in collusion with the British armed forces, to British troops like those who killed people in Derry and Ballymurphy, and that this would involve discrimination and criminalisation of others.
I don’t know just where the actual £800 million will go but I have a feeling that the victims of the IRA will be high on the list. As for criminalisation, Doug Beattie has already made it clear that those connected with the IRA were justifying “its murderous criminality”.
Amidst the welter of abuse being hurled at Martina Anderson there doesn’t appear to be a single voice disputing that the pensions will go to those victims who could broadly be described as ‘on the British side.’ Which again is fair enough: if you’re a victim, you deserve some compensation, however inadequate. But it remains unfortunate that none of the moral voices above dealt with the claim that the bulk of pensions would go to those identifying as British.
Maybe Doug and his co-condemners were too busy trying to do what unionism has been trying to do for some fifty years: depict all republican violence as murderous criminality. That is, allocate the white hats to unionism and very black hats to republicanism.
There is indeed a lot of criminality about – always has been. But I know of no other criminal organisation in the world where ten of its members died on hunger-strike to underline that they were not criminals but political prisoners. Maybe Doug has further information on that.
Similarly, those who dismiss the Troubles as the work of murderous criminals, or who stand shoulder to shoulder with those who do, have never explained why this eruption of mass criminality involving hundreds, maybe thousands of young men and women happened in the first place and continued for some thirty years, then stopped.
The truth is, the little stateen established almost a century ago has damaged us all – unionist, loyalist, nationalist, republican, none of the above. We are all victims to a greater or lesser degree. And those who claim otherwise are either sadly myopic or even more sadly selective in what they allow themselves to see.