Most of the time I don’t take the things Ireland’s government and political establishment do personally. I might find them objectionable, appalling even, and they may impact me to a greater or lesser degree, but I rarely get the feeling they’re doing something that singles me out.
I do get this feeling, however, with the way the matter of loyalist collusion, brought to light in copious detail by Anne Cadwallader’s book, has been studiously ignored, at the very moment ruling Irish politicians and prominent commentators make a show of their concern for the Disappeared.
If Enda Kenny or any of his colleagues were truly concerned about people who execute others extrajudicially and dump their bodies so that they can never be found, they wouldn’t suck up to Barack Obama and share a stage with him. Obama’s oversight of the operation to find Bin Laden, capture him, execute him in the presence of his 12 year old daughter, and dump his body at sea, without even a tissue of pretence of due legal process, was a matter of public record and officially flaunted photos in the days before his visit to Ireland in 2011.
So the concern for the IRA’s Disappeared is not a matter of principle but of political opportunity. This, as a recent Cedar Lounge Revolution post showed, means that the Disappeared can be brought up as a means of wriggling out of mildly awkward questions about social welfare and other matters.
This concern, as with the concern about Garda Jerry McCabe’s death, has nothing to do with upholding standards of human rights and morality and everything to do with protecting political ascendancy in the South and maintaining smooth and mutually beneficial relations with the British government. Enda Kenny’s concern for Jean McConville is as genuine as that of Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister.
Perhaps it’s naive and simple-minded of me to expect, in light of such facts as staging the Queen’s visit on the anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and the Tánaiste planning on inviting the British royal family to the 1916 centenary celebrations, that Ireland’s political establishment might emit some kind of public concern, no matter how tokenistic and mealy-mouthed, about the demonstrated role of British security forces in the deaths of dozens of innocent Irish citizens, or about the fact that these murders served to prolong the conflict they claim to abhor. But neither they nor their court scribes will say anything, because, in the end, to say something might not provoke a crisis of state, but it would interfere with their power lust.
The reason I take it personally is because I lived through the conflict they claim to abhor, and with the immediate social effects of loyalist collusion. When they ignore it, when they downplay it, or when they seek to tether it to something Sinn Féin is expected to do, they’re saying to me: we don’t give a shit about your experiences. You are nothing to us, and the shitty little place you come from and the shitty little war you had up there is only of interest to us if it lets us scare people down here and elevate ourselves to a superior morality.
And frankly, I hate them for it.