By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)
A fortnight ago our proconsul met the family of Aidan McAnespie, shot dead from a British army checkpoint at Aughnacloy 21 years ago, to express his regret at what happened.
A few days later on July 27 he issued a statement co-signed by the secretary of state for defence in which the British government stated its “deep regret” about the death and recognised the suffering of the family.
The Historical Enquires Team had concluded that the story the Ministry of Defence had held to for almost a generation was the “least likely” explanation of what had happened.
For some reason the deputy leader of the DUP felt he had to issue a statement as well.
It’s worth presenting it in full. Here’s what Depooty Dawds said. “The death of any innocent person during the course of the terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland is a cause of regret.
“As far as the DUP is concerned the army and the security forces generally have no apology to make as organisations for what they did in Northern Ireland.
“On the contrary, we believe the army deserves praise for their actions in fighting terrorism.
“Our brave men and women in uniform, especially those from Northern Ireland, who served in the Ulster Special Constabulary, the UDR and the RIR served their community with honour and distinction and played a leading role in protecting the people of this part of the United Kingdom from terrorist criminals.
“Now that Operation Banner has ended, we will continue to remember the bravery, dedication and sacrifice of those who helped put down the scourge of terrorism. No apologies are needed for that.”
Virtually no media outlet carried the statement in full, which is a pity because it’s so craftily worded and weasely. The statement is a revealing glimpse into Dawdsland, a place of denial and distorting mirrors.
On the one hand he gets the word ‘regret’ in but on the other hand he reckons the security forces have nothing to apologise for.
He seems to have forgotten that the unionist militias he singles out for special mention, the B Specials, UDR and RIR, were each disbanded as soon as the British could get rid of them.
Indeed, almost the first action the British took when they were forced to pay attention to the north was to abolish the B Specials. Why on earth would Dodds mention a discredited rabble disbanded 40 years ago when he was 11?
As for the UDR, he happily ignores the fact that they had more members convicted of criminal offences, mostly connected with loyalist terrorism, than any other regiment in the British army.
Notice too the crafty use of ‘their community’, not ‘our’ or ‘the’. Since more than 95 per cent of those militias were Protestant it’s pretty clear who ‘their community’ were.
Leaving aside the unsavoury record of the, by definition, sectarian militias that Dodds so admires, the more alarming aspect of his statement is its clear implication that the end justifies the means.
Forget anything that happened. Far from any apology ‘for what they did... on the contrary, the army deserves praise for their actions in fighting terrorism’.
So, even if they made mistakes, even though they broke the law, no matter, no apology for what they did?
What provoked this outburst from Depooty Dawds? There has been a welcome period of silence from him after his wife’s lamentable performance in the European election when she managed to halve the DUP vote.
Is the shock and humiliation at her truly dreadful result the spur for Dodds lashing out?
Is it the perverse belief that all the wrong in the north is on one side, that unionists in no way contributed to the explosion of the Troubles 40 years ago this week or to the continuation of the conflict?
Or is it simpler than that? Is he preparing the ground to defend himself against a candidate of Allister’s party next year?
Is the reference to the B Specials the clue? To save his political skin does Depooty Dawds feel he has to endorse the daft unionist backwoods myth that the north could have been nirvana if only the B Specials and RUC had been allowed to carry on business as usual?