I’m just off air from the Nolan show where I was discussing with Gregory Campbell and another individual (whose name I missed) the apology that Gerry Adams offered in the Dail for the killing of garda Jerry McCabe. It wasn’t a discussion that got very far but it did raise a number of issues that bear further consideration.
- What else would Gerry Adams, could Gerry Adams have done in the circumstances, than apologise? The press in the south get very upset - not unreasonably - when one of their police officers is killed. They don’t have the same sense of tragedy when a police officer in the north is killed, otherwise they wouldn’t have leap-frogged the more recent killing of PSNI man Ronan Kerr to arrive at the killing of garda Jerry McCabe. But then that might have revived memories of Martin McGuinness’s robust reaction to the Kerr killing and how he condemned Kerr's killers as traitors, and that might have given political traction to Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin. And that wouldn’t do at all at all.
- Gregory, when pressed about apologies from the state, said that David Cameron had apologised and anyway, the IRA killed more people than anyone else. That’s the kind of muddying of waters that leads to discussions going nowhere. David Cameron apologized for Bloody Sunday, full stop. He didn’t apologise for the killing of the innocents of Ballymurphy, he didn’t apologise for the killing of Pat Finucane - he apologised for one mass slaughter by state forces. Thanks, David. As for who killed most: in the great majority of armed conflicts, that’s exactly the idea: who can kill the most. Hence Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden. So to take the discussion up that bye-road was pointless.
- Gregory kept talking about the need for sincere apology about IRA killings north of the border but he couldn’t quite bring himself to talk about the need for apologies from the RUC, the UDR, the British Army. That would be to draw some sort of parallel between the two sides engaged in the conflict and that is one thing unionism has always resisted.
- Gregory talked about the context of this apology by Gerry Adams, as I did myself. The one context we didn’t get round to talking about was the state of this state pre-Troubles. About the development of the civil rights groups in response to that state; and about the response of the RUC, UDR and then the British Army to those civil rights groups and anyone who looked like they might want to change the state for so long wrapped up in a big cosy Orange sash. But then if we had got round to establishing that context, there might have to be some apologising done for the warped state that existed here and the damage it did to so many lives for so long.
- Will we ever hear the British and unionism acknowledge their sustained wrong-doing, both before and during the Troubles? I would say never, never, never, never, except the word has become devalued. Let's say you'd be better not holding your breath and leave it at that.