Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

The bloody price of peace

From Mr John O'Byme

Sir: You raise some cogent moral concerns in your leader on the Irish peace process (9 September). As you point out, the Belfast Agreement has brought `peace of a sort, but it is peace at a price'. But is this 'peace', after more than 30 years of bloodshed, not worth some price, however ethically tainted?

Certainly, the main consequence has been a blurring of moral responsibility which has corroded the British and Irish governments' response to Republican violence. We now know that those responsible for the Omagh murders will almost certainly never face trial. In the aftermath of the atrocity, the Dail met in emergency session to pass tough new antiterrorist measures, equivalent to internment without trial. These powers, combined with a proven non-jury criminal court system, are the toughest in Europe. They could be used to put the Real IRA behind bars - but have not been. So why do the Omagh bombing suspects, their names known to the Garda and the RUC, remain free? Because internment is anathema to Republicans and a trial of suspects would create martyrs; and martyrdom (remember Bobby Sands?) is highoctane symbolism in the eyes of the Republican movement. Adams does not want the Real IRA to gain such empowerment - and thereby new recruits and funds - as a result of a trial that would certainly fail for lack of strong forensic evidence. So realpolitik and moral equivocation rule.

We are forced to swallow a flawed `peace process' with few ethical boundaries but huge electoral support, in the interest of politicising former terrorists. There are bound to be further moral dilemmas. One will be the inevitable release (under the deliberately ambiguous terms of the Belfast Agreement) of the convicted murderers of Garda Jerry McCabe. Likewise, the new `Bloody Sunday' inquiry is certain to hurt the reputation of the British army and give propaganda fodder to its terrorist enemies. But these are all part of the 'price' for which the voters of both North and South voted in two referendums. Can anyone suggest a workable alternative that does not carry a much higher price in human terms? John O'Byrne


Nil nisi bonum

From Diana Lamplugh, OBE

Sir: Ross Clark (Banned wagon, 2 September) is incorrect in his assertion that I have written to the Home Secretary `demanding a change in the law to prevent the living from defiling the memory of the dead'. In fact, I wrote to let him know that I have contacted Victim Support about the need to include `dignity in the face of murder' within the proposed Victims' Charter. Our daughter, Suzy, was maligned after her death; she could not fight for herself and we were legally unable to act on her behalf.

The Home Office suggested that it might be possible to include a phrase such as `retaining dignity in the face of murder', asking the media not to use unsubstantiated allegations on the reputation of the victim. Secondary victims include not only the direct family but also their friends and acquaintances. We feel very strongly that others should not have to suffer additional distress as we did, especially when we were already so affected by the tragedy of her undoubtedly violent death with no body to bury.

Diana Lamplugh

Director, The Suzy Lamplugh Trust,

London SW14

Income tax must go

From Mr David J Kidd

Sir: Both Andrew Gimson (`Tories: don't be slaves to the free market', 26 August) and Professor Tim Congdon (Letters, 9 September) are wrong; for both assume that we currently have an institutional arrangement called variously the `free market' or `capitalism'. No such order exists. The term `free market' has become a cant phrase concealing the reality by which the modern state extends its unchecked power. In the field of taxation it gives its subjects just two alternatives: those who will not be its dependants must pay taxes to those who are. Living off what others are forced to pay in taxes from their property is legitimate; refusing to pay those taxes is criminal. …

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