The true cost of violence in Ireland

by Fr Des Wilson (for the Andersonstown News)

Politicians have been talking about violence for years - and never defining it.


They talk about the violence of the past 40 years - as if what people suffered in Ireland’s northeast before the 1960s was not violence.

But it was, violence of a deliberate and terrible kind.

Ireland was invaded, Irish lands taken by force and distributed to incoming supporters, military and civilian, receivers of stolen property.

In order to hold on to what was stolen a huge military occupation was set up and we have had wars in Ireland ever since.

Who is to pay compensation for that?

When London had to concede control over part of the stolen territory in Ireland it tried to make Irish people pay for the damage.

No compensation there. People in the northeast of Ireland are still paying day by day for an occupation which was immoral in the first place, continued by immoral means and is only now grudgingly coming to terms with the notion of equality.

It is argued that London paid huge sums of money in Ireland’s northeast - for security, for infrastructure, for education.

But even those who seize territory immorally are bound to provide some civilised living until people take control of their own affairs again.

London did not provide it except for a few government supporters. It has to be made do it until Irish people assert control over law, commerce, freedom of speech, movement and decision-making.

London’s spending on security was mostly for its own commercial and strategic security, not for those of the people governed; London was recently content to pay welfare and other monies knowing that most of it would flow back into its own economy through superstores and enterprises planted in Ireland as surely as the undertakers and beneficiaries of the past were.

A London government could not give subsidies directly to their party supporters in Britain, but under the guise of development in Ireland could and did create large public works, grants and legal helps for London-approved enterprises.

Every welfare and development payment then became a hidden subsidy for British industry and commerce.

No compensation there either.

There has never been a realistic analysis of London’s relationship with us in Ireland and its responsibility for the evils it caused.

Nor has there been an assessment of how much London owes us. Nor any suggestion that any international court will make London pay it.

Whether we do not have economists capable of making such an analysis or whether we have them and they are unwilling or afraid, such an analysis never happens.

We get explanations of conflicts all over the world in terms of who caused them, who benefits from them, what happened the natural resources of a country, but not in Ireland.

A basic evil was allowing people to believe that what was won by conquest could be kept by fraud, that ownership by conquest is not only moral but admirable.

It is not.

If any such analysis of our situation in Ireland is done even now, many of us will look with some sympathy on the politicians demanding compensation from Libya.

From how many foreign governments, religious organisations, newspaper magnates, do the rest of us then demand compensation for the encouragement, arms, money and untruths they provided against us during the past, not 40, but many, many more years?

The first purveyors of violence against people are governments. They are also the last to pay for it.

But we have to be sure the right ones pay.

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