In the latest essay in our series, KEVIN MYERS asks permission to address Karen Bradley on legacy issues (see beneath the article to link to rest of series):
The people of Northern Ireland should be delighted that their latest District Commissioner, Karen Bradley, is honest enough to admit she knows nothing about Britain’s little Bosnia.
Notwithstanding this, she got a seat in the Cabinet and her very own Castle in Belfast: how jolly.
No doubt she thinks that Portadown is a biochemical warfare plant and Paisley is just a rather pretty Scottish pattern.
May I address you personally, Ma’am, on the subject of “legacy issues”? You see, I was reporting from Northern Ireland when you were in nappies.
The first real atrocity that I remember was in 1971 when three unarmed off-duty Scottish soldiers, including the McCaig brothers, John (17) and Joseph (18) were lured from a bar by undercover RUC officers and murdered. This was in order to discredit the civil rights campaign of the Immensely Religious Almoners, also known as the IRA. Your Sinn Fein-IRA (Sfira) contacts will happily confirm this.
The second set of brothers to be murdered in cold blood were Malcolm (20) and Peter (19) Orr.
You won’t have heard of them because A) they were harmless working-class Protestants from North Belfast, which means that they don’t really count, and B) they were not shot, as some foully allege, by Gerry Adams’ future body-guard, but by Scottish soldiers in revenge for the earlier killings.
You possibly have heard of Bloody Friday. Ma’am. This was when twenty no-warning bombs exploded in Belfast, killing nine people and injuring scores, many permanently. Blame for this has wrongly been attributed to the IRA, whereas — as Sfira will again attest — the Army was responsible.
Indeed, Ma’am, if you sit down with the historical advisers that Sfira will supply at the drop of a hata (we’re very hot on the Irish language these days, as I think you’ve already discovered) you’ll learn that most of the troubles were actually the work of the security forces.
Up until you got the Northern Ireland job, you probably thought collusion was what resulted when Hyacinth Bouquet’s car hit the gatepost.
Now you know otherwise: whenever something historical “appears” to have been the work of paramilitaries, behind it is usually Hereford’s fell hand, not hoof, mind you, so I’m not talking about the cattle.
While the IRA were running whist-drives for orphans in Soweto, the SAS — no, Ma’am, not the airline but Sassenach Assassination Squads — were goading those knuckle-headed Protestant paramilitaries into prolonging the troubles.
Ma’am, I think even the most literal-minded accountant — your chosen profession, apparently — will have perceived the heavy hand of irony here.
You will not, I trust, take it amiss that if I say that the average English person (eg, you) knows as much Ireland as they do about Pluto’s moons.
Yet this astounding English ignorance can be effortlessly transubstantiated into self-lacerating guilt merely by the victimised incantation of some hocus-pocus from the high priests of Irish republicanism.
Some brief observations, Ma’am. One — the reason you are not sitting amid a heap of smouldering rubble is the courage and dedication of the security forces that prevented civil war.
Two, despite this, your government now seems intent on blaming them for the troubles.
Three, Sfira has lost every single campaign it has ever fought, from 1916 to 1996.
But four, then follows the creation of a false history, complete with rousing ballads, which will redeem the IRA in both deed and outcome.
By now, you will have learned that there are two sides here.
One side can’t actually speak Irish but desperately want to make the other side do so. In the meantime, they name their children after forgotten nobodies in recently-researched Irish mythology. They’re called (for whatever reason) “republicans”. The other side — ‘unionists’ — have orange sashes, red faces and stupendous annual angers.
If they’re men, their first names are either Anglo-Saxon, like Wilbur or Cuthbert, or are surnames, such as Nelson this or Dawson that, while unionist women usually sound like herbaceous borders: Myrtle, Heather, Hazel.
Republicans are extraordinarily good at fabricating gloriously tragic narratives, whereas unionists are about as skilled at this as they are at warbling ‘God Bless the Pope’.
For you, legacy is probably something that your grandad bequeathed you: a few quid in Premium Bonds and a pretty little music-box marked Present From Bognor, bless him.
But for Sfira, ‘Legacy’ means history, and is a perpetual home-game, rather like Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, with Glentoran Under-14 Reserves always the visitors.
That’s how the Shinners have repeatedly conjured triumph from defeat and inspiration from ignominy.
Crucially, they have been helped by nationalist historians’ eager acceptance of both the morality of republican violence and Sfira’s redefinition of utter failure as near-victory.
Hence the Treaty of 1921 “proves” the IRA’s war, 1916-23, was justified, even though it kept the Free State in the Commonwealth while its politicians swore allegiance to the King, the Irish Seas and Atlantic ports remained the private property of the Royal Navy, and Northern Ireland stayed within the UK with government letters being marked OHMS, just like today. And that’s victory?
The IRA campaign 1970-1996 again ended in military failure, leading to ceasefire, talks and partial disarmament, a term which is as meaningful as “partial pregnancy”.
Yet next came abject political capitulation by the Irish and British governments and, incredibly, both branches of unionism.
So, Ma’am, unionist leaders have only themselves to blame that the Sfira is now weaponising (as we say these days) the legacy issue against the heroic security forces that beat them.
For these leaders assented to Sfira’s presence in government without either complete disarmament or the dissolution of the IRA’s army council: first David Trimble, then Ian Paisley, next Peter Robinson and finally Arlene Foster.
Say this slowly in front of the mirror, Ma’am. The IRA did not fully disarm. Its army council still exists, as do some guns: were the Russian AN-92 twin-shot sniper rifles ever decommissioned? Ask your MI5 advisor. He — or she — will gaze distantly at the wallpaper behind you and start speaking Tibetan, which is Millbank for No.
“Legacy issues” are the lies one deservedly gets when once one has assented to Sfira’s massive whoppers about partial disarmament. And that’s what unionism’s leaders have repeatedly done over the past twenty years, apparently believing that “British fair play” would soon or later see them through.
Well, they know how far that got them. So now, they must either suck it up, or unconditionally reject Sfira’s legacy project.
I’m sorry, what? Ah no, Ma’am, that funny statue at Stormont is not of Frank Carson.
• Kevin Myers is a writer and commentator