Unionists continue to endorse terrorism

Nationalists have begun another attack on Unionists, pointing out that Unionists claim to be opposed to “terrorism” but this is a pointless claim when there is no context. They have a point – not least because Unionists do stand up for those who endorse terrorism when it suits them, just as everyone else does.

The issue about the IRA campaign of 1969-94 is not that it was “terrorism”, but rather that it was unjustified. That is a very specific thing. “Terrorism” itself can be justified when no democratic options exist – but in Northern Ireland in 1969 (and indisputably from 1973) they did, just as they do now. And Unionists admit this – next month they will parade to commemorate the gun-running of 1913 (“terrorism” by any definition); their hero Churchill demanded “fighting in the streets and on the beaches” in the event of a successful Nazi invasion (and rightly so; but “terrorism” by any definition); and of course Unionist elected representatives were only too pleased to share a platform with the likes of Billy Wright and demand an inquiry into his death (he was a “terrorist” by any definition – and one who operated clearly unjustifiably at that).

So terrorism plainly can be justified, and is justified by Unionists (even in many cases when it was just as unjustified as the IRA campaign). It is and was not justified in Northern Ireland because democratic routes always existed – never more so than now. Indeed, in many ways Northern Ireland is the most democratic society in the world. Nowhere in Western Europe has more elections; nowhere has a police force more accountable to elected representatives; nowhere is keener on all sorts of civic engagement in the democratic process. With power-sharing, accountable policing and a range of East-West and North-South bodies governed by appointees broadly appointed in line with party vote share, several democratic routes exist. Terrorism cannot be justified.

Which makes it all the more galling that Unionists endorse it. They have endorsed attacks on that same democratically accountable police service (terrorism), on public property (terrorism), and now one Councillor who endorsed a potential murderous attack on a parade (terrorism). This was not just any old Unionists endorsing terrorism – it was a Minister, a Junior Minister and a Council Leader in the case of that latter. It’s not just one party either – other Unionist parties are currently in talks with the largest one about electoral pacts. Their hands are all dirty.

The only difference between Loyalist rioters now and IRA “volunteers” in the past is one of scale. But the simple point is this: terrorism in a liberal democratic society is either right or it’s wrong. So, Unionists, which is it?

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7 thoughts on “Unionists continue to endorse terrorism

  1. mooretwin69 says:

    Can terrorism. – the deliberate targeting of the civilian population – ever be justified? I’m not sure.

    The UVF gun-running was in 1914, not 1913. Was it terrorism? No. Was it justified? Yes: the defence of democratic self-determination is almost always justified.

    Was the UK’s participation in WW2 terrorism? Of course not, though, arguably, it involved some acts of terrorism.

    • Firstly, gun-running began in *January 1913* and a centenary parade for guns coming ashore at Larne is notified for *next month*.

      So no, it was *1913*. And it’s a fundamental point – it was the formation of a Unionist militia to back up the Covenant prepared to risk innocent civilian life (engage in terrorism). Unionists universally endorse and celebrate this.

      You also miss the point re World War II. The point is the UK had made plans to defend itself *even in the event of a successful invasion*, i.e. through guerrilla (terrorist) tactics. Nevertheless we’ll adopt your definition – the bombing of Dresden was the deliberate taking of civilian life designed to instill terror in the local population. Are you saying it was wrong?

      But ultimately you admit, in your “legitimate defence of self-determination” line, that terrorism is really ok, so long as you agree with it – one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter; one man’s blatant partition of the national unit is another man’s legitimate self-determination. Apologists for the IRA take not only the same view, but may even use the precise same words.

      • mooretwin69 says:

        I know nothing about any parade, but I do know that the UVF gun-running took place in 1914, not 1913.

        “Risking innocent civilian life” (about which anyway you have no evidence of the UVF’s intentions) is not terrorism. So the premise of your argument collapses immediately: the UVF were not terrorists and did not engage in terrorism.

        Also, guerilla tactics are not necessarily terrorist tactics. So another premise fails.

        Was the bombing of Dresden wrong? Arguably yes, it was.

        You say that I admit “terrorism is really OK”, so long as I agree with it. Yet my point is the opposite: that terrorism is rarely, if ever, OK. You have engaged in misrepresentation and that is disgraceful.

        You trot out the cliche that “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”: a line to which I do not subscribe.

        Your argument is fallacious. It is premised, first, on a category error, whereby you appear to classify almost all violence as terrorism; and second, on the fallacy that accepting the legitimacy of one example of violence (or rather the preparation for it) within your erroneous category means that one must therefore accept the legitimacy of all violence within the erroneous category.

  2. Tom says:

    “Was it justified? Yes: the defence of democratic self-determination is almost always justified.”

    By that logic, the “democratic self-determination” as determined by the people of Ireland in their last all-Ireland election in 1918 was for an independent Republic with no connection to Britain at all. Consequently any “terrorist” action from that point onward is justified.

    If you decide to narrow the scope of the election, and just look at the six counties you will find large swaths of territory now claimed by Britain in which the people overwhelming voted to be part of an Irish Republic, therefore any “terrorist” action there is justified.;

    • mooretwin69 says:

      “By that logic, the “democratic self-determination” as determined by the people of Ireland in their last all-Ireland election in 1918 was for an independent Republic with no connection to Britain at all.”

      Indeed. The nationalist people of Ireland did so determine. Unfortunately for them, however, the unionist people determined to stay in the UK. Hence the compromise of partition.

      “Consequently any “terrorist” action from that point onward is justified.”

      No. While self-determination is almost always a just cause for violence, it is only one of several conditions that must obtain.

      “If you decide to narrow the scope of the election, and just look at the six counties you will find large swaths of territory now claimed by Britain in which the people overwhelming voted to be part of an Irish Republic, therefore any “terrorist” action there is justified.”

      No. See above.

      • Tom says:

        How do you justify the abrogation of the nationalist vote in counties where they are the majority ??? Even at the time of partition ?

  3. mooretwin69 says:

    I don’t justify counties being used at all as the means of determining the border.

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