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Karen Bradley's 'Mistake' Reveals Far More Than Just Her Ignorance
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The families of the 13 innocent people shot dead by the Parachute Regiment when they took part in a civil rights march against internment without trial in Londonderry in 1972 will learn in the coming week if soldiers, who are alleged to have carried out the killings, will be prosecuted.

There is no doubt about what happened on Bloody Sunday 47 years ago since Lord Saville’s report, 5,000 words long and the fruit of 12 years’ work, was published in 2010. It concluded that none of the casualties shot by the soldiers “were posing any threat of causing death or serious injury”. It said that all soldiers bar one responsible for the casualties “insisted that they had shot at gunmen or bombers, which they had not”. Saville added that “many of these soldiers have knowingly put forward false accounts in order to justify their firing”.

Saville said the report was “absolutely clear” and there were “no ambiguities” about events in the city on that day. David Cameron later told the House of Commons that “what happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.”

But eight years after Cameron had apologised, the Commons heard another story from the Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, who said this week that the deaths caused by the British security services during the Troubles were “not crimes” but people acting “under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way”.

This was so very different from Saville and Cameron that it was followed by a frantic row-back on the part of Bradley, followed by some some touchy-feely stuff about acknowledging the pain of the families of the dead who might be upset by her words.

Bradley’s original statement and confused apologies were greeted with derision by the media, which recalled her past gaffes, comparing her ineptitude to that of the transport secretary Chris Grayling whose pratfalls and failures – and unsackability because of Brexit – are notorious.

But Bradley’s incompetence and ignorance – her kinder critics say that “she is out of her depth” – are a diversion from a more serious failing on her part, one which has the potential to do real damage to the stability of Northern Ireland. This is simply that what she said and later apologised for reflects all too accurately the real thinking of much of the government, most Conservative MPs and the great majority of their party supporters.

Prominent Brexiteers have never liked the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), while others consider it a Labour project that they would be happy to see wither on the bough. Michael Gove compared the GFA to the appeasement of the Nazis. The former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson happily retweeted an article saying that the GFA had run its course and he supports a hard border with the Irish Republic. The “Get Back Control” slogan of the pro-Brexit campaign was aimed at the EU, but it can be rapidly adjusted for use against the GFA, which undoubtedly does dilute the formal authority of the British government in Northern Ireland though expanding its real influence.

Bradley’s statement in the Commons could be dismissed as the normal Conservative knee-jerk support for the British Army. But the problem here is that its tone is in keeping with Conservative actions since they won the general election in 2010. Since then they have ignored essential parts of the GFA, such as the central role of the nationalist population in the north and, until recently, of the Irish government. Cameron may have apologised for Bloody Sunday but he sent a right winger like Paterson to Belfast as secretary of state.

Bit by bit the preconditions for peace have been chipped away. A crucial element was the declaration by the British government under John Major in 1993 that it was neutral between unionists and nationalists. This enabled it to mediate successfully between the two communities. It also enabled it to act in concert with the Irish government if the two communities could not agree.

This neutrality was carelessly abandoned long before Theresa May finally knocked it on the head when she became dependent on the DUP for her parliamentary majority in 2017. DUP MPs are now treated as if they were the sole representatives of Northern Ireland, though its voters chose decisively by 56 to 44 per cent to stay in the EU. Moreover, demographers say that Catholics and nationalists now each make up half the population of the north and will be in the majority in two years’ time.

Contrary to criticism, Bradley’s repeated gaffes, automatic support for the British Army and open ignorance of the Northern Irish political terrain are nothing out of the ordinary for politicians holding her job. Perhaps it is unfair to blame this on the Conservatives alone: the British political class has a long tradition of ignoring Ireland until it blows up in their faces.

The fact that Bradley’s ill-considered remarks were made only days before there is to be a decision by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service about the prosecution of soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday is also par for the course.

A central reason why the Troubles went on for so long was that successive British governments from 1968-69 failed to realise the extent to which internment without trial, Bloody Sunday, the hunger strikes, the Birmingham Six and similar injustices delegitimised the British state in the eyes of the nationalist community. A myth was maintained that the IRA has only two or three per cent support in the nationalist community and that it was always on the verge of total defeat. But small guerrilla groups depend more on tolerance or support than they do on military capacity and this popular acceptance was underestimated by the British and Irish governments. Both were astonished when Sinn Fein started winning elections under their own name in the wake of the hunger strikes.

These grievances in Northern Ireland are often presented as “legacy” issues which are only kept alive by the historically obsessed Irish who ought to let the dead bury their dead and get on with their lives.

ORDER IT NOW

But this is exactly what Brexit – along with a prolonged failure by the British government to keep the GFA in good working order – is preventing people in Northern Ireland from doing. It is absurd for people in Britain to criticise anybody in Northern Ireland for undue interest in the past when Brexit is doing just that by resurrecting a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, the elimination of which was central to the peace agreement. If Britain goes backward into the past, there is no reason why the Irish should not do the same thing.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, Britain, Northern Ireland 
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  1. The families of the 13 innocent people shot dead by the Parachute Regiment when they took part in a civil rights march against internment without trial in Londonderry in 1972

    Another whopper from the seditious shamrock sinner Patrick Cockburn.

    They were papist swine who were marching in the support of lawless brigands attempting to overthrow Her Majesty’s government. As such they ought to have been arrested, tried for treason, and hanged. The Parachute Regiment simply expedited the ordinary process of justice. I’ve never understood why not a single shooter from that glorious day ever received a Victoria Cross.

    Worth pointing out that while Cockburn is named for Ireland’s patron saint and grew up in County Cork, he is not actually a romish retard unlike most of the savage simian population of Ireland.

    This makes his endless support for the Irish insurrection completely baffling. He should be arrested and tried for sedition.

    • Troll: Byrresheim, lavoisier
  2. If you want to know the City of London’s most important fixations (after pedophilia and money laundering,) just read Thorrffinnssonn. He’s got all the Colonel Blimp reflex thoughtlets. He’s in the tank for arms buildups, especially Little Britain’s cute little bathtub rubber ducky Trident, their last risible toehold on P-5 status; he hates the “gay international court” that clamped down on Britain’s atrophied balls with a torture investigation of chickenshit British torture cowards; and the imminent loss of Britain’s first colony makes him apoplectic (it must smart all the worse now that Britain got their sorry arse kicked off the ICJ bench where the matter will be authoritatively resolved.)

    The EU has a backstop, and so does the City of London. The UK’s backstop is to start up the troubles again. Here you see him foreshadowing that with illegal hate speech of the most violent and dehumanizing sort. Within two weeks of the 29th deadline, SAS will be blowing up women and children in Derry like old times. Their little limbs will be whirling through the air and the SAS murderers will be buttfucking each other with glee.

  3. tyrell says:

    Are you by any chance a Calvinist thorfinnsson? A Scottish one? Do you hate Celtic fc?

  4. Tom Verso says:

    I have long considered Mr. Cockburn my ‘teacher’ in matters of the Middle East. Billed as a journalist, his solid historiographic methods and social scientific analysis rendered him a must read about the Middle East.

    Now Cockburn brings those same scholarly virtues to British/Brexit issues; and again, thanks to Ron Unz, he is my teacher. As with the Middle East, I consume enormous amounts of journalistic material about Brexit; and yet it’s like eating American white bread. It lacks substance. After reading Cockburn, I wonder what all those words I read and listened to were about.

    Consider for example, the site “The Duran”. The editor-in-chief Alexander Mercuris has posted numerous podcasts about Brexit. I listen to them all. They are very informative. He is very intelligent and profoundly well informed about British politics (indeed, the moderator of the podcasts often ‘kiddingly’ refers to him as ‘The Oracle of London’).

    Mercuris’ forte is the inter- and intra- parliamentary party intrigue. It is interesting, but it fails to bring forth the substantive social issues and dynamics that ultimately drive parliamentary debate and actions. He makes, for example, regular references to the Brexit Irish border issue, and yet it’s an abstraction; the border is represented simply, if not solely, as an EU import/export trade issue.

    Mr. Cockburn’s recent articles are quite the opposite. He is all about ‘social forces’, which are the ultimate reality of government. This current article implies that there is much more to the Brexit Irish issue than the border taxes to which Mercuris regularly refers. It is, as it always has been for centuries (and the above ‘Thorfinnsson’ comment suggests), about Irish ideology. And ideology is the ultimate reality of society and government.

    “Ay now there’s the rub … eh.” How does one come to know and understand mental states … ideology? Words are not necessarily a manifestation of mentality/ideology.

    Cockburn cogently writes: “what she [Karen Bradley] said and later apologised for reflects all too accurately the real thinking of much of the government, most Conservative MPs and the great majority of their party supporters.”(emphasis added)

    Further, Cockburn, again cogent, writes: “grievances in Northern Ireland are often presented as ‘legacy’ issues which are only kept alive by the historically obsessed Irish who ought to let the dead bury their dead and get on with their lives.”

    Those ‘legacy’ issues are ‘ideological’ and ideology does not just ‘die’. At best it fades away. And unless and until it does (fade away), it is a ‘mental reality’, independent of words spoken in parliamentary debates and political speeches, that cannot be willed out of existence or ignored; it must be dealt with.

  5. anonymous[191] • Disclaimer says:

    If Britain ever leaves the EU, it should give Northern Ireland independence and then they will be finally free to stay with the EU if they wish. Irish problems should be solved by the Irish.

  6. Cortes says:

    Timing is everything in comedy.

    So, just let us appreciate the release of this story together with stories about “letter bombs” from Ireland.

    Could Easter be approaching, perchance?

    Same old, same old.

  7. Anonymous[255] • Disclaimer says:

    There is a glaring typo in the 14th para: “A central reason why the Troubles went on for so long was that successive British governments from 1968-69 It is present in the Indy online version too.

  8. Tony M says:

    There is a glaring typo in the 14th para: “A central reason why the Troubles went on for so long was that successive British governments from 1968-69 ” It is present in the Indy online version too. It is not clear however what it should say.

  9. tyrell says:

    Thorfinnsson is instructive. This is what the peace process was up against. He and his ilk would crow if it fell apart.

  10. Gordo says:

    Bullshit cockburn.

    The so called IRA fired the first shot as even Independent readers know

    In a way I wish the creepy politicos would prosecute former soldiers, the present day middle ranking officers might react in a way nationally advantageous. But no, we don’t do coups.

  11. Sean says:

    A central reason why the Troubles went on for so long was that successive British governments from 1968-69 failed to realise the extent to which internment without trial, Bloody Sunday, the hunger strikes, the Birmingham Six and similar injustices delegitimised the British state in the eyes of the nationalist community. A myth was maintained that the IRA has only two or three per cent support in the nationalist community and that it was always on the verge of total defeat. But small guerrilla groups depend more on tolerance or support than they do on military capacity and this popular acceptance was underestimated by the British and Irish governments. Both were astonished when Sinn Fein started winning elections under their own name in the wake of the hunger strikes.

    The Governments in London (and Dublin) both made bad decisions that helped get the Troubles started. But the central reason why the Troubles went on for so long was that both communities in Northern Ireland became steadily more extreme as the Troubles went on, The Unionists turned to Rev Ian Paisley, and the Nationalists turned to a Republican (IRA) party, both sides thought they could win, but it ended up in stalemate with both sides bitter and exhausted yet illusions still intact.

    Cockburn goes on about the British government, but the people who live in NI just don’t want the same thing. It is not a problem of the British Government’s misunderstandings, which can be cleared up to provide a solution. As has been said, NI is a conflict. Conflicts don’t have solutions, they have outcomes.

    A crucial element was the declaration by the British government under John Major in 1993 that it was neutral between unionists and nationalists.

    I am not sure that “neutral” is a strong enough term for the lack of interest in the province on the part of Britain’s politicians and electorates. Britain really does not care about Northern Ireland, and when Cockburn threatens Britain with NI voting for leaving the UK in the future, I’m sure I am not alone in feeling underwhelmed.

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