Ruth Dudley Edwards: As a ruthless debater, Douglas Murray seems to unerringly hit the nail on the head
Here's a recent sample. Speaking from Israel in a flak-jacket with rockets from Gaza periodically whizzing over his head — he knocks the stuffing out of the hyper-opinionated Piers Morgan in a London studio.
Murray was challenging the idiotic claim that the huge demonstrations in London with their antisemitic banners and shouted slogans were peaceful.
Morgan: “You don't honestly think they're all pro-Hamas, these people?”
Murray: “Well I think that anyone who, for instance, chants things like “From the river to the sea” is in fact what you describe, or is criminally ignorant.”
But not all protesters had been chanting such phrases, protested Morgan.
Murray: ” OK, well here's a challenge, Piers. If you decided to go on some kind of march and in week one you discovered that you had the BNP [British National Party] on your side calling, for instance, for the murder of all black people, would you not wonder whether or not you should go on week two? Would you not drop out by about week three? I'd have thought so. I would.”
Morgan paused and - uncharacteristically - had the grace to concede. “That’s a good question. And yes, I would.”
Murray is a hugely successful writer and broadcaster: as a ruthless debater, he seems unerringly to hit the nail on the head. His knowledge, fearlessness and wit are winning him a vast new following. On Twitter, last time I looked, he had almost three-quarter of a million followers.
Douglas was in his mid-twenties when we met — almost two decades ago — and we bonded because we were both students of terrorism who shared a straightforward view of what was evil — with particular reference to Northern Ireland. What we both tried to understand and chronicle, as he put it in the introduction to Bloody Sunday, was “what happens when ordinary people are thrown into the middle of horrific events. And what forgiveness can ever mean when all the killers are loose”.
At the time I was following the civil case against the Omagh bombers and he the Bloody Sunday Tribunal hearings in London.
We discussed how to deal with uncomfortable evidence that was bad for those we thought were the good guys, and agreed that all one could do was tell the simple truth. I was very proud that he dedicated to me Bloody Sunday: Truth, Lies and the Saville Inquiry, for which he won the memorial prize in honour of Christopher Ewart Biggs, the British ambassador murdered in Dublin by the IRA in 1976.
A prolific journalist, the titles of Douglas’s books reflect his preoccupations and controversies: The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam; The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity: and, most recently, The War on the West: How to Prevail in the Age of Unreason. His opposition to terrorists and their apologists has him smeared as far right and fascist and all too often in danger.
We were both very close to Seán O'Callaghan, the IRA terrorist who spent his adult life atoning for the evil he had done. When he died in 2017, Douglas told of Seán’s insistence on accompanying him to a particular speaking event. “As we turned a corner, we saw 100 bearded Islamists (many now in prison or dead) waiting for me. He must have felt my gulp because he put his corduroy-jacketed arm through mine, looked me in the eyes and said: ‘There are undoubtedly a lot more of them than there are of us. But don’t forget I can be extremely nasty in a corner.’ Luckily the police showed up before he had to demonstrate this.”
Today, all going well, families of three hostages of Hamas should be in Dublin meeting the Taoiseach, the Tániste and President Michael D. Higgins. I hope they can convince them that Hamas is evil, bent on annihilating the Jews, and that sermons about dialogue and peace processes would be an insult.
Ruth Dudley Edwards is the author of Aftermath: The Omagh Bombing and the Families’ Pursuit of Justice.