A recent BBC interview with a former IRA “volunteer” was carried recently as an “apology” for the Birmingham bombings. It was, of course, no such thing.
In fact, it was just the latest in an ongoing attempt to cleanse the IRA of having had any role in the death of innocent civilians. Yet the interviewee had chosen a busy evening, shortly after 8pm, on pay day when more people than usual would be out, to plant a bomb. Far from not trying to kill innocent civilians, he was in fact maximising the number he would kill. That is a simple statement of fact.
There were countless other examples of IRA atrocities carried out in this way, to maximise the civilian death toll, both inside and outside Northern Ireland. That is a simple statement of fact.
Therefore, instead of writing this out of history, this obvious point needs to be written clearly into history, and recognised for the callous and unnecessary disregard for human life it was. By the way, the IRA also killed half the people killed in the Troubles, and was responsible as it happens for more deaths of people of Catholic background than any other organisation. That too is a simple statement of fact.
Reconciliation has long been a word which troubles me, but if it is to mean anything it has to mean a learning from history so as to ensure it is not repeated. Trying to rewrite history to make IRA “volunteers” or any other terrorists a group of people who only ever killed civilians in limited numbers by mistake is therefore the precise opposite of reconciliation – as it would not allow the learning from the past which needs to take place.
Therefore, discussions around legacy will get nowhere until we face the basic facts of what terrorism, carried out predominantly by the IRA but also by others, did to human lives – including that it was targeted at civilians, that it was grotesquely pointless, and that all it accomplished was pain and suffering.