British Government to compensate the families of suicide bombers
The ‘Consultative Group on the Past’ is to publish its report this week on the way forward for Northern Ireland. But what is this past upon which they have consulted? Does it stretch back as far as Cromwell, or before? Does it deal with grievances concerning potatoes? Or is it to be limited to the past 30 years or so? The Northern Ireland political ‘troubles’ are steeped in religious sectarianism, and it is not possible to grasp one without the other. While there are notable exceptions, the Nationalists have overwhelmingly historically professed the Roman Catholic faith and fealty to the Pope of Rome, while the Loyalists have overwhelmingly professed the Protestant faith and allegiance to the British Monarch. Both sides profess to have fought for freedom, and thousands on both sides have sacrificed with their blood.
It is not the cost which irks Cranmer, for £40m is a paltry sum when one considers the Bloody Sunday Inquiry has cost £200m. But it is perverse to equate the paramilitary murderers with their innocent civilian victims, or to assert an equivalence between the illegal activities of paramilitary groups with legally-constituted police and security forces. Unless, that is, Lord Eames and Denis Bradley are intent on treating all those 30,000 who died as victims to one force or another, in order to eliminate any notion of hierarchy.
Reports indicate that this is precisely what the authors are proposing. To distinguish between those who use violence and those who maintain peace would create ‘a hierarchy of victims’. And we can’t be having that, can we?
It would be a perverse justice which ‘rewards’ the families of the IRA Shankill bomber or the families of UVF bombers with same amount of compensation as those of the families of the hundreds of civilians they killed. If this report makes such a proposal, it will be morally flawed and an affront to justice. A terrorist killed while undertaking a mission of murder cannot in any sense be equated with the civilian he murders. The perpetrator is evil for he has freely chosen and is responsible; the victim is innocent for he or she has been given no choice. And only the latter is worthy of state compensation, for the state manifestly failed to protect them.
But the dimension of this reported compensation plan which interests Cranmer is that it proposes to give taxpayers’ money to the families of IRA terrorists and Loyalist thugs who happen to have died or blown themselves up while pursuing their religio-political ends. It is difficult indeed to see how the families of professing Muslims would not also be entitled to claim such compensation, and the withholding of it might fall foul of religious discrimination legislation. The Islamists could be despatched to Allah's paradise to claim their 70 virgins and lake of wine, secure in the knowledge that their families would be generously provided for.
Is there really any difference between the Catholic IRA, the Protestant UDF or the Muslim Al-Qaeda? They may all have members with little understanding of their respective religions, and they may all have subsumed foundational tenets of these religions to an overriding political objective. But Cranmer is damned if he can understand why the families of any of them should get a penny from the taxpayer. And if the IRA and UDF are to do so, then Al-Qaeda ought to litigate promptly for equal treatment under the law. The families of those who blew themselves up on 7th July 2005 in their ‘freedom’ cause would indeed be grateful for the odd £12,000.
While the Lord says: ‘Blessed are the peace-makers’, the British Government says: ‘Blessed are the bombers’. And blessed they are with £12,000 more than the peace-makers. Terrorism pays. Perverse. Utterly perverse.
Lord Eames, the former Archbishop of Armagh, used to be quite a sound Anglican. Cranmer does not understand why His Lordship has not come up with a sound proposal to give £12,000 to everyone who has never engaged in terrorism but chosen instead to pursue justice and to walk humbly with his God.