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Criminality Accepted as the Norm


David Adams • Irish Times, 21 January 2005

Despite having heavily endorsed the Belfast Agreement with its accelerated release scheme for Northern Ireland's paramilitary inmates, the people of the Republic remain steadfastly opposed to early release for the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe.

In the rarefied atmosphere of a college debating society or some other such setting divorced from the real world, a case could easily be made to support a charge of hypocrisy - but it won't be made by me.

There won't be any finger-pointing from this direction: if I was to do that, I would be a hypocrite myself. For I have been heartened by the attitude of the people of the Republic.

They have reacted in exactly the way citizens of a normal, properly functioning democratic state should when faced with the prospect of favourable treatment for the cold-blooded killers of an officer of the law (their officer, upholding their law), and I'm glad they have.

Perhaps if Jerry McCabe had been one of hundreds of police officers murdered in the line of duty, as was the case in Northern Ireland, the general reaction would have been different. In those circumstances, probably few people besides the McCabe family, police colleagues, bereaved relatives of other officers and opportunistic politicians would be kicking up.

There is only so much pain, suffering and brutality a society can absorb before the natural survival mechanism of human adaptability kicks in: individuals then become so desensitised that tragedies need, progressively, to hit closer and closer to home to have any real impact.

Thankfully, Garda Jerry McCabe wasn't just one of many, and the people of the Republic were not robbed of their ability properly to empathise.

Despite living in close proximity to a brutal conflict for nigh on 30 years, neither have they so far lost touch with political reality.

By contrast, the prolonged period of violent upheaval in Northern Ireland has resulted in legal, democratic and even moral points of reference having shifted, disappeared or been distorted to such an extent that notions of legality or right and wrong are now something - for the elites at least - which can be made up as you go along.

Normality can, in simple terms, be defined as that which happens on a regular basis, and so decades of violence and criminality have, to a frightening degree, come to be accepted as the norm. Let's hope, for all our sakes, that things do not go the same way in the Republic.

For it is no exaggeration to say that it is there that the survival or otherwise of recognisable democracy on this island will over the next few years be decided. For the foreseeable future, at least, Northern Ireland has been lost.

In order to end the conflict, we gambled - rightly, I believe - on opening up the political mainstream, including executive office, to those who were formerly excluded because of their links to paramilitary organisations. Up to this point, at least, the gamble has failed.

It has foundered on a not unreason-able assumption at the time that former combatants, as they moved into the mainstream, would leave terrorism and criminality behind. Quite simply, as the raid on the Northern Bank and a host of other incidents clearly show, they haven't.

Where once they had only paramilitary power, now, with feet firmly planted in both camps, they have substantial political clout as well. Instead of creating the inclusive democracy we had hoped for, we are now closer to having built a mafia state. In future years, Northern Ireland may be retrieved, but at the moment even the most optimistic among us are struggling to find a bright spot on the horizon.

But, considered from a wider perspective, it is clear that such a gamble could afford to be taken in Northern Ireland for reasons that certainly do not apply to the Republic. For a start, with the Irish Sea and a lot more besides forming a natural barrier between us and the rest of the United Kingdom, irrespective of how things panned out in Northern Ireland, there was never any chance of the wider body politic becoming hopelessly polluted.

As well as that, with ultimate sovereignty for Northern Ireland lying at Westminster, the British government could, as they have often demonstrated, call a halt to proceedings any time they chose. The Republic enjoys no such safeguards. If the electorate there takes a gamble on electing paramilitaries into positions of power, the entire body politic is at stake. Further, as a sovereign state, they have no Big Brother who can come to their rescue if things go the same way as in Northern Ireland.

That Northern Ireland has, for these past few years, been another kind of testing ground is only now beginning to become clear as well.

Provisional republicanism was merely practising and honing its craft in Northern Ireland before launching an assault on its real target - the Republic.

Bearing in mind that power can corrupt the best of us, if the electorate of the Republic have any doubts about how much is at stake, they need only look northwards to see what power can do to the already corrupt.

Reprinted with permission of the author.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

25 January 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Danger of Securocrats
Mick Hall

Criminality Accepted as the Norm
Davy Adams

The Rapture
Brian Mór

Bertie Talking Bollix
Anthony McIntyre

Pact Impact
Dr John Coulter

Holocaust Revisited
Anthony McIntyre

22 January 2005

The End of the Road
Mick Hall

Reiss Pressed on Mark Thatcher Cautioned on Damage of Another Double Standard
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Follow up on Saor Eire
Liam O Ruairc

Strong Resistance Felt at Bush's Second Inauguration
Christian Roselund, Patsy Crocker

An Old Friend from the Blanket
Anthony McIntyre



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