Friendly Country hosts celebration of Terrorist Killers

A friendly country has recently hosted a celebration of the memory of people who died because of their membership of an organisation that used terrorist tactics in achieving its aims.

Now that Bush has declared the ‘War on Terror’, how does this celebration sit with people who now so readily condemn the Palestinian suicide bombers. I am particularly interested in the views of those people who pre 9/11 would have supported Sinn Fein and the IRA as a justified response to ‘British Colonialism’ and who may have since 9/11 had to deal with a changed perception of the world.

What are the relevant differences between, say, the young woman who killed five people in a bomb explosion in Israel recently, and the members of the IRA who twenty years ago killed children on the streets of England using explosives?

I place this question as an academic exercise in morality, not as a political troll.

Convince me that there is a difference.

First of all I think your subject line is ridiculous. Allowing something like this to take place (when there would be few alternatives short of arresting all the participants) hardly qualifies as “hosting”.

Secondly, it is perfectly possible to agree with the general aims and purpose of a terrorist group and yet to still disagree with many of its methods and specific actions. You would probably find that a lot of those people do feel that the IRA acted abominably in killing innocent people - just as there are, no doubt, many Britons who deplore some of the things their government did in the attempt to eradicate IRA terrorism, while still being loyal to their government and believing in the inherent correctness of the goal of eradicating IRA terrorism.

But, I acknowledge that there probably are people who do think that the IRA killings were perfectly acceptable in a way the Palestinian ones aren’t. I can’t answer for them.

Also, the IRA did not start out as a terrorist organization, IIRC.

To Ruadh

I stand by my title line- supposing in five year’s time an Arab state hosts a similar conference lauding the hijackers of the flights on 9/11.

I also accept that Ireland had no choice but to allow it under its constitution. I also accept that it is necessary as part of the peace process. I also support Irish Unity achieved by agreement between all the parties (I have followed the SDLP line on this for the past forty years). I agree that British control of NI was impossibly ‘racist’ and impossible to defend.

However, we are still left with the fact that a politician who will soon be meeting with George W has been lauding terrorists at this gathering. That is the nub of the problem- not Gerry Adams’ problem (increasingly I am finding myself agreeing with his approach) but George W’s problem- if there is a war on terrorism, how will he react to the representative of the political arm of a terrorist movement (all be it, on permananet ceasefire) lauding the very terrorists who did the same to British civilian men, women and children as Hamas etc. are doing to the Israelis, and as Al Qaida did to the Americans.

That is the point.

To Guinastasia

‘IRA did not start as a terrorist organisation’:

1/ cite?

2/ relevance?


Well, I suspect George W. and most of the US population would be just slightly annoyed.

Don’t you?

I’m sure they would be, but I don’t see what that has to do with your ludicrously overbroad definition of “hosting”.

The IRA was originally the Irish Volunteers-formed in the early 1900s in order to expell British rule from Ireland-at that time ALL of Ireland was under British control. They launched their initial attack on Easter Sunday of 1916 and failed, but eventually the area known as the Irish Republic would come about in what-1921?

Ah! Here we go:

The IRA was basically formed from the more militant factions of the old Irish Volunteers following the Easter Uprising of 1916.
It was founded by Michael Collins.

So basically, it probably started OUT to gain Irish independence-NOT that I approve of their methods, mind you-and then basically evolved into just another terrorist group.

I think that second link is confusing the Volunteers with the Irish Republican Brotherhood - that’s the group that Collins reorganised after the Rising. The IRB more or less took over the Volunteers, but they were still known as the Volunteers up until the Anglo-Irish War.

I agree with Pjen it’s not really relevant to the discussion at hand, though.

This event is not unusual. If Ireland is “hosting” this event then it has “hosted” such events before, and the UK has “hosted” far more of them, and continues to do so on a regular basis. The US also “hosts” them fairly regularly, and they are occasionally “hosted” by other countries.

I think Pjen’s concept of “host” is so broad as to be useless. Given that his original post was not intended as a troll - and I am happy to take his word for that - the language he used was unfortunate.

The basic question is a fair one. Is their any distinction between the terrorism of the IRA and the terrorism of Al-Quaeda? Well, terrorism is terrorism and is unacceptable. The IRA and Al-Qaeda have different goals, and I suppose one might have different views as to the desirability of their goals, but however desirable the goals might be, they do not justify terrorism. In that sense there is no difference.

There is a difference in that the IRA has committed itself to a ceasefire, and to decommissioning of arms. One might question the genuineness or completeness of their commitment - and many people do - but there is no doubt that it is progress in the right direction. That creates a clear distinction between the IRA and Al-Qaeda.

It is also important to recognise that those who we regard as terrorists do not, for the most part, regard themselves as terrorists. We would like them to pursue their goals by non-terrorist means. Steps which they take in this direction should be encouraged, not punished for not being great enough. Put simply, if we demand not only that the IRA refrain from violence but also that they denounce their own deceased members as terrorists, unworthy of commemoration or honour, we make it more difficult for the IRA to follow the path of politics rather than violence. We may regard the history of the Irish Republican movement as having involved terrorism, but any attempt to reach an accomodation which requires that they should take the same view is doomed to failure. How is that a good thing?

Sorry- offline for two days.

Interesting diversions into the history of the IRA, but not really relevant.

Apologies to Ruadh- the title was aimed to be interesting, but not to be critical of the ROI. If it had been held in NI, I would have said the same.

I do note that the OP has not raised anyone who is willing to defend the actions of the IRA. I believe that at least an intellectual defence can be mounted to support such movements of national liberation (ANC etc.) that require the acceptance of a level of ‘terrorism’.

A percentage of the population of NI and ROI would see the IRA (in its various incarnations) as freedom fighters. As I know from experience, many US ‘Irish’ were even firmer in their support of the IRA in the 70s 80s and 90s than the average Nationalist in ROI or NI. :eek:

I was hoping to elicit replies from people who may have defended those IRA actions in these decades when such support was popular, but who may now have revised their support since 9/11.

The point of the post was essentially that the ‘War on Terrorism’ is about as meaningless as the ‘War on Drugs’ for broadly similar reasons: What are ‘good’ drugs/terrorists? How do we know when the war has been won? What are the unseen negative effects of such ‘wars’?- Loss of civil liberties, and paradoxical causation of the actual originating problem.

Pjen, I hate to inform you, but every year your government has a rememberance service for Military personel who died in the course of duty.

This would include members of the Black and Tans, who massacred irish civilians.

was that not a terror act also?

How about Bloody Sunday? has the British Government done all it possibly could to bring the perpitrators of that massacre to justice?

was that not a terror act also?
One man’s freedom fighter is anothers terrorist.

You mention that there is an “acceptable level of Terrorism” involved in a struggle (you cite the ANC as an example). Is it just when the terrorism is not directed against your country is it acceptable?
The people in the ceremony cited in the OP were remembering their dead, much the same as what the UK does for Poppy day.

bolding mine

The country didn’t host it. It happened in the country. Does your country host pub quizzes every night of the week? I think not.

From the BBC link in the OP

If this was just a commemoration of the people who where killed during the early part of the century up to the End of the War of Independence (well the last 800 years actually :wink: ) who died fighting for the State that I now live in I’d have no problem with this at all. These men where called traitors and terrorists by the British in their day but IMNSHO they where brave patriots who fought and died for a cause that I agree with namely Irish Independence.

Ireland recently held state funerals for the “forgotten 10” , 10 men who where hung by the British as criminals and buried in the prison as criminals. The most well known of the 10 was
Kevin Barry. The State exhumed them and buried them with full military honours at a ceremony which was attended by the government and President. So Ireland officially does honour some of it’s dead IRA men but the gathering in Dublin was not one of them.

As for what I feel about the IRA well that a bit more difficult. I know that in NI during the 60’s-70’s it was not a pleasant place to be if you where a Catholic. A unfair voting system that effectively took the vote away from Catholics a rigged boundary that added to the effect. Catholics where basically being ghettoized in a system that I would almost equate to S. Africa. When they marched for Civil Rights they where bullied and criminalized and eventually murdered on the streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday. It was in this environment that the IRA gained its power, influence and popularity in modern Ireland.

Very true and exactly how I feel.

What is the relevance of Bush’ “war on terror” (a) to the Irish, and (b) to people’s opinions of the morality of the IRA’s campaign? Bush doesn’t determine my moral views nor, I suspect, most anyone else’s.

You assume that people view the IRA as the “good” terrorists. Cite, please.


The reason I brought up their origins is that it’s often best to remember that certain terrorist organizations do not start out as such-that often, they can evolve from legit organizations, which may or may not affect how people feel about them.

And of course, terrorist groups can later evolve into legit groups-though I would think this would be rare.

The IRA see themselves as freedom fighters. Britain sees them as terrorists.

Palestinian suicide bombers - and many other Arab countries - see themselves as freedom fighters. The West sees them as terrorists.

Like you say it is all about perception and I really don’t think there is any answer in terms of a moral/ethical/“righteousness” difference. Which is probably a very lame response in GD.

One difference I do see is that the Palestinian suicide bombers are viewed by far more people/countries/governments (ie nearly the whole Middle East) as freedom fighters than the IRA were. The IRA may have had a lot of US support, but they didn’t have huge regional support (ie Europe backing them) like Palestine has the Middle East.

Also the IRA never appeared to win increasing world sympathy, whereas as other threads have discussed, Palestinians are getting increasing sympathy from non-regional media, particularly in Europe but even in the US.

At the risk of provoking the ire of some of our Republican friends here, I’d say that this is because even at the lowest point in Northern Ireland’s history, the Nationalist community’s plight was nowhere near as bleak as that of the Palestinians, and secondly, even at the height of Britain’s military excesses, they were nowhere near as aggressive as those of Israel today.

The Republic of Ireland is a democratic country that guarantees free speech and assembly The ROI therefore cannot prevent the conference. The ROI neither endorses nor promotes the memorial, but merely acts in accordance with its law.

In contrast, our hypothetical Arab country, assuming things remain the same in five years’ time, is not a democracy, and the government therefore can prevent such a conference. If it chooses not to prevent such a conference, it is by implication endorsing the conference.



It may be a sweeping assumption that, because a country is an Arab country, it cannot be a democracy. Sweeping, but possibly true; I can’t think of a clear counter-example (Tunisia, possibly?) but this may reflect on my limited knowledge of political conditions in the Arab world, and I suspect that different Arab countries enjoy varying degrees of democracy.

It’s an even more sweeping assumption that, because an Arab country is unlikely to be a democracy, it must be a stranger to the rule of law, and the government can do anything it wants. A government with little or no democratic mandate may still respect the law and respect individual liberties. You are assuming that no Arab government would feel constrained in banning a meeting because it felt the views likely to be expressed would not be to its taste. That seems to me unwarranted. Moreover by holding an undemocratic government responsible for everything that happens within its territory, are you not implying that such a government should be totalitarian, and should ignore the rule of law in order to control everything that happens?

I recall meeting a Polish dissident in the early 1980s, at a time when Poland was very much within the Soviet bloc, and was under martial law. A colleage of his had been arrested and charged with an offence arising out of his political activities. I asked if the arrested man would get a fair trial. “Of course he will”, was the reply. “Where do you think this is – the Soviet Union?”

Not every Arab country is governed like Iraq.