demonstrations against the killings of Gerard Lawlor
in Belfast and David Caldwell in Derry raised important
political questions. It seemed natural to depict the
killings as two sides of a sectarian coin.
Lawlor was a 19-year-old Catholic, shot in "retaliation"
for the wounding of a young Protestant in Glenbryn
earlier the same evening.
Caldwell (51), a father of four, had been working
in a Territorial Army base and, like most workers
at security installations, was a Protestant.
were innocent working-class victims of a conflict
which some now despair of ever ending.
against the perpetrators and pity for the families
left behind were the decent, dominant reactions. Posters
at rallies reading simply, "Stop all sectarian
killings" had wide resonance.
have raised the question of whether the two deaths
were "sectarian" in the same sense would
have seemed unforgiveably churlish and have given
the impression that the bereavement of one family
was more acceptable than another.
unions were aware of the charge from loyalist groups
that they had tended to react more vigorously to Catholic
deaths than to Protestant deaths.
have made a distinction between the two killings would
have seemed or, anyway, would have been presented
as confirming this unbalanced approach
to recognise a difference in the political motivation
for the two killings is merely to observe one of the
facts of the matter.
UDA set out to kill a Catholic. The republicans who
killed David Caldwell wouldn't have minded much if
their victim had turned out to be Catholic.
target had been workers for (in their parlance, collaborators
with) the security forces.
day after the killing of David Caldwell, Martin McGuinness
challenged those responsible: Let them "put their
heads above the parapet and defend their actions."
the Irish News on August 5, Brian Feeney, author of
a political history of Sinn Fein, told McGuinness
he'd get no response. The killers of David Caldwell
had no political ideas, he suggested.
Feeney must know that the "dissident Republican"
organisations have a very clear political ideology.
the ideology which fuelled Sinn Fein and the Provisional
IRA through a quarter of a century of conflict. This
holds that the only legitimate authority in Ireland
is vested in the struggle to end British sovereignty.
was this core idea which provided sanction for the
Provisional IRA killing of Patsy Gillespie (42), a
canteen worker for the Army in Derry who in October,
1990, was strapped into his van and made to drive
it into a fortified check-point at Coshquin where
it blew up five soldiers, as well as the Catholic
father of five.
changed over the intervening 12 years is that Sinn
Fein and the Provisional IRA have, for practical purposes,
ditched this republican ideology while the dissidents
have held hard to it.
open debate on this development is long overdue.
the ideas behind "dissident republican"
activity doesn't necessarily mean absolving the group
behind the killing of David Caldwell of sectarianism.
They will have known it was highly likely their victim
would be Protestant. They will have known that, whatever
their intent, this is how it would be widely perceived.
went ahead anyway.
pertinently, republicanism in general has come increasingly
to accept Britishness as an essential element in the
make-up of northern Protestants.
for British emblems and loyalty to Britain's armed
forces are seen as natural expressions of what it
means to be Protestant.
Alex Maskey's laying of a wreath at the Cenotaph to
mark the Battle of the Somme was presented and, no
doubt, was genuinely intended as an act of reconciliation
between "the two communities".
this perspective, doesn't targeting a man because
he works for the British armed forces have a sectarian
connotation? And, if this is true now, wasn't it so
could do with public debate on this matter, too.
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