But no. Even accepting all of this I still think that the Eames/Bradley suggestion to compensate the families of all those killed in our Troubles — including the terrorists — is wrong.
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It’s as if we have all been shareholders in Troubles PLC and what we experienced was some kind of violent Northern Rock collapse, and those who were killed were shareholders who lost more than us and this is as much as the sequestrators can afford to pay out as compensation after the company has been wound up and the creditors paid. We get peace and uncertain government because we’re alive, they get cash because they’re dead.
THE father of a schoolboy murdered by the IRA has slammed plans that could see the families of paramilitary killers receive the same compensation as their victims.
So there we have it: dead terrorists are to be viewed as equal to the people they killed; the families of the innocent are to be compensated equally with the families of the terrorists
Since by their logic, with paramilitaries as much victims of the Troubles as the people they’ve killed, is it not only right that paramilitaries who have been imprisoned — and are therefore also victims — are given compensation as well?
I think I heard one sceptic remark that, if one’s house is burgled, one does not compensate the family of the burglar. Well, not yet; though in the present condition of the public mind, anything is possible.
And so on. It would appear that this is about compensation. And yet:
Speaking ahead of the launch of the Report of the Consultative Group on the Past, co-chairs of the group, Lord Robin Eames and Denis Bradley, urged everyone to take time to reflect on the findings and recommendations.
On the £12,000 payment controversy, co-chair Denis Bradley said: “Over the past number of days we have heard some victims groups saying we don’t want money, we want justice. Others have said we don’t want money, we want truth. They are right to say that and our report will reflect both points of view.
“Equally they have to respect those who told us that they wanted neither justice nor truth. Others that we met want recognition by our society of their loss and suffering. This is not about compensation nor is it about financial reward. It is a small gesture by our society to acknowledge the grief of the families left devastated by the last forty years.”
The former Church of Ireland Primate Lord Eames added: “I would therefore ask everyone to take time to read our report. We would urge everyone to take the weeks and months ahead to reflect on its recommendations. This is too important an issue for instant responses.”
Good luck with that, then.
Reading all the commentary about this, there is a common thread in nearly all the articles: that to advocate paying money to the nearest relative of each person who died in the conflict is to imply that there is no difference, morally speaking, between an innocent and unsuspecting victim and someone who pulled the trigger or planted the bomb.
Alex Kane says:
To equate dead terrorists with the men and women they killed is to proffer a form of legitimacy for their terrorism. To say that the families of killed terrorists deserve financial parity with the families of those they blew-up, shot or tortured, is a logic-defying insult of monumental proportions. And please, please spare me the crap about the families of terrorists feeling the “same pain and shedding the same tears” as the families of the men, women and children they killed. Terrorists choose murder as a strategic option. They kill ruthlessly and without any consideration for the families of their targets: in many cases they shot them dead in front of their wives and children.
The pain and tears of the families of innocent civilians and the pain and tears of the families of security force members are not the same as the pain and tears of the families of terrorists.
Bearing in mind that the consultative group draws no distinction between those killed by terrorists and the terrorists who were themselves killed….
The Belfast Telegraph also says in its editorial:
People will just not accept that there is an equality in principle, never mind in monetary terms, between innocent people and terrorists who were also killed. It is a recommendation that should be rejected by the Government when it comes to consider this report
In interpreting Eames here, the focus is shifted away from the nearest relative, who suffered the loss and who is the intended recipient of the payment, to the actions of the relative who died: not a nice move, considering that the point of the recommendation is to address the suffering of people left behind, and not the ones who died.
Even so, if a terrorist exercises a choice, in Kane’s terms, how can you hold the relative in any way accountable for that choice? And, even if one accepts Kane’s definition of ‘terrorist’, can’t a ‘family of terrorists’ also be a family (composed) of innocent civilians?
Then there are the conditions under which these terrorists made their choices. How much are the individuals and their families truly responsible for those conditions? Is the fact that very few young men and women from Bishop’s Stortford and Stroud chose to join paramilitary operations simply down to the upright moral character of the people there?
It seems to me that it’s very easy to be morally upstanding and talk about ‘families of terrorists’ once you can dismiss the possibility prima facie that they are human beings.
None of this is to imply that the gesture of cash payment is a good idea: I don’t know about that.
To date the recommendation has been politicised, as above, in terms of righteous victimhood, which I think is pretty indecent. The fact that you have all these people talking about ‘compensation’, which implies monetizing people’s suffering, then introduces the ugly prospect of weighing up how much each person ought to receive, as though there was some sort of continuum of responsibility against which the bereaved ought to be judged.
And the general response to the group’s declaration that there is ‘no hierarchy of victims’ seems to be that if there is no hierarchy of victims, then all victims must be somehow equal: an illogical, even ridiculous, response, but a widespread one nonetheless.
I do think, however, that if people are after some sort of meaningful settlement with true reconciliation, there has to be some symbolic recognition of the fact that there are groups of people in and around Northern Ireland -whether their children or brothers and sisters were terrorists or not- who have suffered immensely because they happened to live there, and that the responsibility for alleviating their suffering -which need not be confused with responsibility for their suffering in the first place- should be shared by everyone.
However, this simply cannot be accomplished on the state’s terms, since the state is simply incapable of disclosing the necessary facts or admitting any sort of responsibility for what happened. At least not for the next 200 years.