Compassion, and who to get outraged about

Yesterday, Colum Eastwood, the SDLP leader, had his sunlit gambol in the British House of Commons, where he (gasp) revealed the name of Soldier F. There was much reaching for smelling salts and clutching of bosoms from the ill-informed, but I’m surprised Colm didn’t tell his British colleagues that everybody in Derry and beyond knows this guy’s name – it’s even written up on the Free Derry mural. But then that would close the gate on your chance to have a sunlit gambol and convince the gullible that your presence in the British House of Commons makes a microbe’s poo of difference.

Eastwood is hopping onto the topic of the moment, which is the proposal to grant an amnesty for all Troubles-related killings. Stephen Nolan had an Englishwoman on talking about her outrage that those responsible for her sister’s death in the 1974 bombing of the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham would never pay for their deeds. He had another woman, from Enniskillen this time, whose mother and father had died in the Enniskillen bomb. He also had Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, who talked briefly about some of the many people killed by the British army over the years, including children.

The dominant note, though, was that the legislation meant the IRA could ‘get away with’ killings during the Troubles. As though to drive this point home, Nolan even had Kenny Donaldson on. Kenny is an admired champion of Troubles victims , regardless of who they are or who killed th…What are you saying, Virginia? That Kenny doesn’t  represent victims who have died at the hands of the British state and its forces? Surely you are misinformed. I heard a woman refer to Kenny as ‘marvellous’ on the Nolan Show, and she wouldn’t have done that if he was a champion only of those who passed some loyal-to-the-crown test. Would he?

That said, the word ‘selective’ – that’s the word that keeps standing on its hind legs and howling in my head. Innocent Catholics have been slaughtered time and again over the decades – Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Bloody Sunday, Ballymurphy, the Glenanne gang, often with clear signs of British army guilt or British state collusion, but their plight has been kept well clear of the mainstream media, especially the B(ritish)BC. If you thought about that too much, it could drive you mad.

However, let’s be grateful for small mercies, in the midst of all the hypocrisy and fake compassion. This proposed legacy legislation has allowed Colm and Kenny to prance and bleat tunefully about victims, and by implication congratulate themselves on their championing of those who have nursed tragedy for half a century.

Always look on the bright side.

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