IRA campaign was criminal terrorism, not war

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Your headline ‘At last ... a Government minister comes out to remind us it was terrorists, not the state, responsible for these massacres’ and accompanying piece by Ben Lowry (Friday 12th February) say everything others are failing to say - even our Unionist politicians.

It took the Secretary of State to defend the role of our Armed Forces, and that of the State, during a ‘war’, which was not found wanting by the people of Northern Ireland, nor the State, but a minority of the population, once described (and rightly so) as criminals, not heroes or ‘ex-combatants’.

These criminals are not comparable to the many servicemen and women who served in the RUC, UDR or Army who patrolled our streets to keep the peace - not cause violence.

Theresa Villers MP said everything to be said, despite allowing some time to pass before saying it. Nevertheless, she told it as it is - something no Unionist politician has managed to do, opting for the Basil Fawlty principle of ‘don’t mention the war’. McGuinness and Co. constantly refer to the ‘war’ and the existence of different ‘narratives’.

There is only one ‘narrative’ I am interested in - and that is the facts. Army personnel did not go into busy shops on a Saturday afternoon and plant bombs amongst women and children. They cleaned up the carnage and picked up the pieces (sometimes literally).

This is something we must never allow future generations to forget. The difference is between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘good’ and ‘evil’, not ‘narratives’ or ‘stories’, something which could be equated to Irish mythology and legends. Furthermore, I do take issue with the premise that ‘conflict’ was Protestants versus Roman Catholics.

What we experienced here in NI was terrorism, where a few - many of whom have now been elevated into positions of power and patronage as if it is a recognition of their ‘public service’ - justify their actions as a ‘war’ i.e. much like a mature adult referring to their ‘younger, misspent years’.

In 1998 one thing we signed away was the principle of morality and knowledge of what was ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Unionists must reclaim the moral high ground otherwise all is lost.

A case is not won without a defence, and so far I have seen little offered ‘in defence’ of the majority of decent, lawbidding people of NI.

Observer, Belfast