Jude Collins

Friday, 2 August 2013

Mike Nesbitt speaks clearly and absolutely. Or does he?

Imagine this.  You meet me, we talk and the conversation turns to killing. (Use your imagination, would you?)  I declare that I am opposed to all killing involving knives. “What about  kitchen knives used by impressionable teenagers?”  you ask. “I told you” I say. “ I’m opposed to ALL killing that involves knives. For me, that is an absolute”.

I expect you’d be impressed with my no-ifs-or-buts approach to the matter. But let’s imagine you have with you an awkward friend, and instead of admiring me for my consistently anti-knife stance,  he were to say, awkward git that he is, “What about a knife used by an abused woman on her husband, who treats her like dirt? And by the way -  why are you confining your condemnation to knives?  What about poison, clubs, guns and bombs?” Faced with that sort of interrogation, my originally admirable stance might well be exposed for the paper tiger it is. 

But you don’t have to imagine. The leader of the UUP, Mike Nesbitt, was on Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster this morning. He made it clear that he was against that Castlederg march later this month, honouring Tyrone IRA men. He was asked about the banners that appear in some Orange and other loyal orders’ marches, honouring dead loyalist paramilitaries. “I’m opposed to those marches too - I’m opposed to terrorism in whatever form and from whatever source. With me that’s an absolute”.  Or words to that effect. 

Mmm. Here’s my question, Mike (we’ve left the world of imagination now, by the way): are you opposed to killings by armies - say, the Iraqi army under Sadaam Hussein? And what about your thoughts on George Washington and Nelson Mandela, terrorists in their day? And how about Churchill’s exhortation to the British people that, if called on, they should adopt terrorist tactics? 

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”. 

It soon becomes clear, as someone tried to explain to George Bush, that ‘terrorism’ is a tactic, not a philosophy.  You might as well condemn scalpels or golf clubs or cars, since all three can be used to kill someone. The question is not what tactic is used but whether the cause behind that tactic is supportable. Churchill clearly believed that the invasion of his island home would justify the use of ‘terrorist’ tactics.

So as I say, I wonder what Mike’s views on Churchill are. And Nelson Mandela. And the Parachute regiment in Derry during the early 1970s. And having answered those questions, does he still want to ban that republican march in Castlederg?


  1. ‘Imagine this. You meet me, we talk and the conversation turns to killing. (Use your imagination, would you?) I declare that I am opposed to all killing involving knives. “What about kitchen knives used by impressionable teenagers?” you ask. “I told you” I say. “ I’m opposed to ALL killing that involves knives. For me, that is an absolute”.’

    Defending oneself to live another day is completely justified, whatever the means or tool to hand. If someone gets badly hurt during the course of defending oneself then it's sad, probably heart-breaking, but I don't know anyone who wouldn't at least try to survive if in a life or death struggle.

    If the choice is to shoot unarmed victims coming home from Church, unarmed civil rights demonstrators or even people from Ballymurphy whose second names you don’t like then it isn’t defensive or sanctioned offensive action. That is a crime in civilian life and a war crime in military life. We have plenty of war criminals on all sides of Northern Ireland and loads of pom pom carrying cheerleaders for them as well! Imagine if Jack the Ripper had an entourage? ‘Vote for me, Jack’s my mate, yes he used to strangle women but the spooks told him to!’

    Clearly it is about context, injuring or even killing by accident while the recipient of a violent attack from a criminal or military gang is different than being a serial killer or rapist who kills their victims. It isn’t the weapon or actor based moral models, it's about the context in which violence is deployed and the reason for deployment.

    Of course that is what a court of law is supposed to be for, to decide if violence deployed was proportionate to the threat. In Northern Ireland defending yourself from illegal state and non-state actions is as likely to be vilified as the perpetrators of cold blooded murder because most of the perps were CI's or handlers. So the narrative is all angled that way, sad but true!

  2. So according to the Jude Collins philosophy,you are not allowed to criticise the actions of paramilitaries unless you also criticise and condemn the actions of people like George W Bush and his ilk in starting wars.Is this a continuing attempt to sanitise retrospectively the I R A campaign during the Troubles?

  3. Anon 12:37 - How kind of you to infer my philosophy. However, I don't think I said anyone was allowed or not allowed to do anything. I merely point out the seriously limited nature of MN's statement that he is opposed to marches honouring 'terrorists'. It's not sanitising or trying to sanitise retrospectively or otherwise the IRA campaign. There are clearly two narratives re the last 30 years: that the conflict was started and continued by a group of bloodthirsty psychopaths called the IRA, or that a group called the IRA continued a struggle for national freedom that is centuries old. If you subscribe to the former, you'll see the IRA campaign one way; if you subscribe to the latter, you'll see it another way. Everyone is free to choose. Mind you, events that are deemed foul can with time be deemed fair, and vice versa. Thanks for raising the point.

  4. Jude
    "So as I say, I wonder what Mike’s views on Churchill are. "
    As you are wont to say, why don't you ask him? I believe he is on twitter.
    I think it is a little unfair to say his statement was limited when he was addressing a specific issue. If you were invited to a debate about knife crime you would not be expected to give your opinion on the nuclear deterrent.

  5. Gio - I thought Churchill was dead...

  6. Could you describe this great concept called "national freedom" that the I R A was fighting for?In today's interdependent world, can any country really be totally free?

  7. Anon 23:54 - Good point. No man is an island and no country is self-sufficient. I'd settle for the kind of national freedom that England has, or France, or Germany, or....You get the idea. The people of the country making the decisions, not their next-door neighbour.

  8. One problem for Jude's "narrative" is that, if PIRA violence was justified as part of a continuing struggle for "national freedom", then, since "national freedom", as understood by Jude, hasn't been attained, he ought now to be defending the "struggle" as continued by the dissidents.

  9. Anon 09:40 - good of you to speak 'Jude's narrative' - I didn't even know I owned one. Clearly some people believe the best way to a (relatively) independent Ireland is by continued violence. The great bulk of republicans disagree. So your point is?

  10. The point is that you offered a choice of two competing "narratives" and spoke sympathetically of one. Logically, by your own reasoning, if that "narrative" is the accurate one, there should still be a republican campaign of violence now and you should be defending it, as you defend the 1970-97 one.

    If you don't defend violence now, then your preferred "narrative" can't be accurate.

    If your preferred "narrative" isn't accurate then, by your own logic, the other one must be. So you're left supporting the claimed psychopath "narrative".

    In other words, your logic fails.

  11. Anon 17:36 - I'm impressed. Some time since I've heard such a malformed, confused argument. Outstanding.

  12. Poor response. There's no confusion. It's your "argument" that is "malformed, based as it is on an either-or fallacy.

    The sad part is I don't think you even realise.

  13. Anon 12:13 - I don't feel at all sad. Well, maybe a little bit for those so blind, they will not see...

  14. I didn't say you did feel sad, so your response is irrelevant.