families of the disappeared?
IbT WILL HAVE become clear by the time the European election results are made ublic on Sunday what a profound electoral disaster the whole debacle over the bodies disappeared has been for Sinn Fein. The revulsion has so far emanated not least from Catholics, among whom a raw nerve has been struck. The IRA has been shown to transgress one of Christianity's most central tenets: the need to give the human body a proper burial in consecrated ground.
Whilst Mgr Denis Faul wrote in The Tablet: "Deprive the relatives of a murder victim of all the comforts of an Irish funeral... and an incurable wound is inflicted which is allowed to fester for a quarter of a century", Sister Lavinia Byrne remarked on Radio 4's Today programme: "To inhibit the process of grief is to violate the human spirit to a degree which is quite unacceptable." Then, writing in The Irish Times, Fr Joseph O'Leary posed the question: "How could we tolerate for all those years the deeds of a fascist organisation dedicated to torture and murder? ...What cowardice or connivance prevented us from speaking out against these atrocities'?"
Not only has the IRA proved itself wholly un-Christian, its claim to be the protector of Catholics has once again been gruesomely exposed. Of the nine bodies the IRA announced it had located in March, eight of them were Catholics, people from their "own" community. This is no meaningless statistic. As a recent book by Marie Therese Fay, Mike Morrisey and Marie Smythe, Northern Ireland's Troubles: The Human Costs has demonstrated, of the 1,543 Catholics who had been murdered since 1970, Loyalists have killed 735, the RUC, the UDR and the British Army have between them slain 316. The IRA and its splinter groups have killed 381— more than a quarter, and more than British Government forces combined.
Let us not misjudge the IRA. Many who join are brave men, told that they can expect death, imprisonment, or if they are very lucky, to come out of it free men — willing to live on a pittance in the meantime. Yet just because you believe in something it does not make it right, and many of those who volunteer for an erstwhile noble cause end up as part of goon-squads, willing to take the life of anyone deemed not doing their bit for the cause.
Sinn Fein believed that the handing over of the bodies would provide them with an electoral fillip and boost the peace process, showing that, although they are not surrendering their weapons, at least they are handing over something. And once again Sinn Fein will reiterate that they can only encourage the IRA to hand over the bodies, as they are (as we know) two different organisations. Umbilically linked they may be, irrefutable is the fact that many of today's top Sinn Fein men are convicted members of the IRA. This was made clear to me when I was in Ireland recently, and spoke to Sean MacStiofain and Ruari O'Bradaigh, the IRA's Chief of Staff and Sinn Fein president respectively in the early 1970s. They made no bones in telling me just who in the present Sinn Fein leadership were in the IRA back then, and the names go right to the top.
ERRY ADAMS has been ncharacteristically ruffled by the whole episode, though he and other Republicans are keen to stress that they are making amends. "One thing I found very humbling over dealing with the families is that they do not want any punishment, they were not concerned with recriminations," he remarked. This seems to sit uncomfortably with Sinn Fein's present position on the Bloody Sunday enquiry, which plainly seeks revenge.
Bloody Sunday was a cata strophe; a hardened regiment of Paratroopers sent in to quell a civil rights march, of whom they deliberately cut down 14. Yet while Sinn Fein demands justice for the families of 14 innocent Catholics killed in the heat of the moment by the British, it wants the families of the eight irmocent Catholics killed in cold blood by the IRA to forgive and forget. No one can deny the horrors of Bloody Sunday, but you simply cannot have it both ways.
It is probable that Tony Blair will let them. The recovery of Eamon Malloy's body came just hours after the Government's Northern Ireland (Location of Victims' Remains) Act had passed into law. Under this legislation any evidence gathered during the process of recovering the disappeareds' remains cannot be used in evidence in future prosecu tions. It is nothing less than an amnesty.
Yet as the Balkan war has illustrated, this is because our Prime Minister is a classic bully: he fights the weak while caving in to the strong, bombing the innocents of Belgrade and releasing the guilty of Belfast. While he abhors the murder of people because of their race or sexuality, he tolerates those killed because of their religion (if the White Wolves had some military muscle, Blair's attitude would, I am sure, alter accordingly). While we all condemn Donald Findlay, the now ex-chairman of Glasgow Rangers for singing Orange songs, the British Government allows Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair, a Loyalist believed responsible for the murder of 20 Catholics, permission to attend that Scottish FA Cup Final. While our Prime Minister curses the ethnic cleasing of Kosovo, he is silent about human rights abuses by the Chinese, the IRA, and most recently, Loyalists intent on killing primary school children.
No doubt we are going to find many mass graves in Kosovo, and prosecute Milosevic accordingly. But what will Blair do for the families of innocent Catholics, the victims of Loyalist death squads? And where is the justice for the families of Catholics murdered by the IRA, who unlike the Krays, "never hurt their own"?