I had every intention of moving on to a new topic today, which is partly why I missed the Nolan Show last night. But I’m listening to the radio version of the show now and Nolan is interviewing Ann Travers and the truth is that her argument is all over the place.
She argues that special advisers are paid out of the public purse and that this is particularly hurtful to victims such as herself. There is no doubt that this could well be the case. But then had one of my relatives been killed on Bloody Sunday, I might feel it particularly hurtful that the person who killed my relative was being paid out of the public purse. If I were one of the Finucanes, I might feel it particularly hurtful that those in the British armed services who colluded in the death of my father was paid out of the public purse. And you can add many other names yourself, I expect.
Ann Travers has just made it clear that she does not claim to speak for all victims - but she does say that this bill is for all victims. She may think so but a number of victims want no hand, act or part in this bill. They are firmly opposed to it. These tend to be people whose loved ones were killed by the British state.
The discussion has now moved on to a moving description of the incident that resulted in Mary Travers’s death. While this is moving it doesn’t advance the argument for blocking ex-prisoners from serving as special advisers one way or another.
What all it comes down to is the question of how you regard the Troubles. If you believe that it was something more than a mass outbreak of murder, involving thousands of people who prior to the Troubles were not involved in violence of any kind and who post- the Troubles have not been involved in any form of violence - in fact they’re working hard to make sure the peace we now have stays in place - you'll disagree with Ann Travers. If on the other hand you believe that every death inflicted by the IRA was murder pure and simple, you’ll think Ann Travers is absolutely right.
One of Pat Finucane’s sons, John I think, has just come on. Before the line dropped out he was saying that it was notable the difference in reaction to those who died at the hands of the IRA and those who died at the hands of state forces. That is the third leg of the stool - British state killings. In a simple equation, the argument could be stated as
IRA killings = murder; state/loyalist killings = legitimate response
Whether we like it or not, or know it or not, this is about more than the death of one young woman. Whether Ann Travers likes it or not or knows it or not, this is about how the history of the Troubles is to be written.
PS Mike Nesbitt is now on talking about how Ann Travers should have been called before Mary McArdle was appointed. But I thought I had to draw the line somewhere and I've just switched off.