From Derry To Paris

Friday’s theocratic slaughter in Paris has achieved nothing for humanity. It is one step back to an age we thought darker but which, given the range of modern murderous technology, might not have been. Our ability to kill has increased while our desire and willingness to do so has not diminished in the slightest.

The multiple attacks on Friday marked the second time this year that the phenomenon, once termed clerical fascism by the SWP’s late Tony Cliff, visited its gospel of hate on the people of Paris. Little did Parisians and visitors to the city know what lay in wait once the acridity of cordite had dispersed in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January past.

Since Friday’s attack some apologists for state terrorism have taken to making comparisons that more reflect their prejudices than their humanity. Ruth Dudley Edwards who seemed very unconcerned when Palestinian children were last year being massacred in Gaza in numbers far in excess of what was witnessed in Paris, has been to the fore in likening ISIS to the Provisional IRA. The murdered Parisians, like the slaughtered of Omagh, are fortunate only insofar as Israel was not behind their respective fates. In her skewed moral universe RDE would then have argued that it is quite okay: they were only fighting terrorism rather than practicing it: it's alright to turn a blind eye to it and that sort of thing. Her position in respect of the victims of state terrorism is let them eat cake. The association of that particular phrase with France has its own irony.

The Provisional IRA perpetrated many horrific acts. To excuse the organisation or downgrade its role would be to play silly buggers with the victims much as RDE has done. The people of Birmingham, for example might feel that they can identify with the victims of Paris, given the fate that befell them at the hands of the IRA in November 1974. We can hardly deny their claim.

It was not Birmingham, however, that my republican eye initially focussed on when I arose on Saturday morning as the extent of the attacks from the night before was becoming clearer. I could as easily have thought of Dublin-Monaghan but that is not what came to mind either. Ethnocentricity, emotiveness and shared history shape our experience and form our bonds, not to mention preferences. So for that reason I thought of Derry and the massacre visited there in January 1972. The victims of terrorism on that occasion were every bit as innocent as Parisian revellers. Ordinary civilians going about legitimate business when they were cold bloodedly observed through rifle sights and selected for murder before being gunned down by British state terrorists from the Parachute Regiment. Much like happened in Paris.

The same thugs had massacred a population in Belfast’s Ballymurphy only months earlier but as that was not caught on camera the impact, internationally, was not as severe. Had the cover up in Ballymurphy not been allowed to take place the citizens of Derry might have been spared. Before the Para terrorists were sent into Derry it was fully known what they were capable of: mass murder. The killers also had firm reason to believe, given the massacre they had inflicted in Ballymurphy and walked away from with impunity, that they would not be held to account.

By all means the people of Birmingham have every right as a city to stand in solidarity with Paris if they so choose. But no less so have the people of Derry. The population of Paris excluding the surrounding suburbs stands at about 2.5 million. Given the diminutive demographic status of 1972 Derry, the impact of the worst act of terror to have visited the city during the post 1960s Northern conflict was arguably as great as that inflicted on the Parisians.

If on Friday evening, exactly one week after the Paris attacks, the citizens of Derry wherever they might happen to be, were to observe a one minute silence in memory of the victims in Paris, it would be a clear message of solidarity from one butchered city to another that terrorism from wherever it emanates, state or non-state actors, has no place in a world where a premium should be on preserving human life rather than ending it.

If there is any real difference between the killers of Paris and those of Derry, it is in favour of Islamic State. The monsters of Paris acknowledged their dirty deed. The monsters of Derry on the other hand lied about theirs, covered it up and blamed the victims. They even brought a senior judge in to exonerate them of their crime.

A difference which does absolutely nothing to excuse Islamic State nor invalidate the simple logic that if there is no hierarchy of victims there can be no aristocracy of killers.


  1. Anthony,

    As much as I like Ruth Dudley Edwards on a personal level, I find her reaction to the massacre in Paris to be little more than cheap, opportunistic churnalism.

    For me, the only meaningful definition of terrorism is the deliberate targeting of civilian populations for a political purpose. Thus, I accept that republicans committed acts of terrorism during the Troubles. This would include the members of the so-called Balcombe Street Gang. Only the most blinkered Shinner would deny that.

    However, to imply (as Ruth does) that the Balcombe Street Gang's activities typify armed republicanism in the same way as the Paris massacre typifies ISIS is as stupid as claiming that the British Army committed massacres like Bloody Sunday every week. As bad as things were during the Troubles, such atrocities were exceptional. Indeed, I am sure Ruth herself would be saying the very same thing if Gerry Adams had reacted to the events in Paris by comparing the British Parachute Regiment to ISIS.

    If anything, such self-serving comparisons merely demonstrate the rank hypocrisy at the heart of Ruth's perspective on terrorism. According to the UN and every independent human rights group, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) killed more civilians in Gaza in the summer of 2014 than republicans did in the whole of the 20th century. Ruth tied herself in knots at the time in a vein attempt to excuse, explain or deny the IDF's terrorism. Similarly, she always seeks to explain and contextualise British misdeeds in Ireland.

    Of course, providing context and explanations is vital to understanding, but it must work both ways. Ruth's bombastic and blinkered approach might play well in the Tory echo chamber, but outside of that, it is little more than clickbait.

  2. The only similarity between IS and the IRA is they are both nothing to do with Islam

  3. DD

    I wouldn't agree with that -ISIS is all about Islam. Just because other muslims have a conflicting interprtation of Islam that we might prefer all muslims had that does not negate or make void the attrocities carried out in the name of Islam by ISIS and other Islamic organisations. We have a right to scorn the muslim mantra that Islam is a religion of peace just like we have scorned the catholic churches mantra that it cherished all of god's children. ISIS is squarly grounded in Islam - scewed logic or not. People who are concerned that Islam is like a rabid dog out of control have a valid right to their concerns and trying to pretend that Islamists have nothing to do with Islam is merely juggling with spades and shovels.

  4. Alfie,

    I like her on a personal basis myself but as you suggest that is hardly the issue. I never attack her on a personal basis or call her names. Like yourself I make the point that on matters of terrorism she is hopelessly inconsistent and applies the most woeful double standards. I was amazed last year at how easily she tied herself up in knots over Israeli war crimes. Her inability to reason her way through these matters is so stark that she only manages to be wholly unpersuasive. Those unionists able to recognise state war crimes and play with a straight deck - like Robert who comes on this site occasionally - pose a much more formidable challenge to republican narratives. Those who think the security services respected the law so much they wouldn't murder people ... there is really nothing you can say to them other than have a nice day.

  5. Apologies Christy, I thought my sarcasm would be apparent. We can safely deduce no intelligent lessons were learned after the Hebdo attack,as I guessed at the time, any analysis failing to take into account the Life of Mohammed,Islams founder, would not produce a usuable solution. They can have as many viral videos of (apparently) angry Muslims denouncing the latest attackers with swear words, whilst subtly including things along the line of "of course you people are not Muslims, Islam as we know, teaches peace....", it changes nothing, and just tricks people.
    I reserve a special hatred for lying non-Muslims, intellectual dwarfs who lie about what they know of Islam, they dont realise they can be spotted a mile off by the out of context Koranic quotes they desperately cling to.
    Whether IS resemble the IRA is not as important as whether people think they resemble Mohammed.

  6. DD

    Ops I must have been reading too literal -I can sometimes misread sarcasm and the rhetorical.

    We have seen muslims come out publically en-mass all over the world when they feel cartoonists or somebody else has insulted Islam so evidently ISIS does not insult Islam all that much if at all. A number of French imams have voiced their objections to the Paris attacks but how much of that is out of self-interest only because they know they are a minority among a suspicious majority? Certainly we never see imams in muslim majority countries voicing objections -unless to complain that ISIS is also killing muslims.

  7. Diplock,

    Unfortunately if you don't know the history of DaithiD's comments on these matters the sarcasm will float over your head! I have had the same experience. But he has been very consistent in this line and I think it notable that it is making its way into the discourse post-Paris from Muslims despite the risks to them and the howls of Islamophobia. That most dubious of concepts is a huge cudgel moulded in the furnace of anti-intellectualism and wielded for the purposes of stifling free inquiry.

  8. Thanks AM, yes I droppped my flag on this patch a long time ago. Its definitely not as lonely as it once was. Can you clarify :

    I think it notable that it is making its way into the discourse post-Paris from Muslims despite the risks to them and the howls of Islamophobia

    The from Muslims bit confuses me in the context of the rest of it, which i agree with.

  9. So you woke up on Saturday morning, contemplated the events of the previous night and thought of Derry in '72? RDE then writes a silly article and it prompts you to respond with your own whataboutery article? The only similarity between Derry and Paris is that innocent people were unlawfully murdered. And there it ends- different time, different place, different context, why did you feel the need to form your own link?

  10. AM

    Maybe that makes it worse for me because I do know what he has said before and always agreed ...

    Perhaps it was a bit risky for the imams to have said what they did and it is good that they did. But I realise that the extremes that Islam throws at us lowers our expectations from these men of god or peace -no religion should be allowed to advocate for the death of anyone they think of as blasphemers, apostates or wrong sexual orientation. Because they are not part of ISIS does not mean they are not extremists -they are just less extreme. And you are right about the islamophobic cudgel that is used to silence peoples reasonable conerns and objections.

    Prior to the Paris attacks I have been working on the issue of halal slaughtered meat sold in Ireland where the facts are extremely shocking thus far. I have been in contact with the Islamic Cultural centre and the self-styled Irish Department of Halal Certification who refuse to respond (I presume because I am not a muslim). I had been told by a food outlet that all Irish Meat is 100% Halal -I still refuse to accept that. If you look at the World Halal Summitt website you can see that there is much focus on how to get non-believers to eat halal. A goggle search turns up alleged comments from the grand mufti of Bosnia who believes that making the infidel eat halal cleanses the was for the advance of Islam. I have not confirmed the sources of those reports but that attribute is consitent with his involvement with the WHS.

    I have written to Irish 'certified halal' slaughter houses to confirm the accuracy of the claim that tehir meat is 100% halal. None have responded. A well known multinational food producer that allegedly uses processed halal meat in its products has written to me stating that it does not use halal meat products and they are contacting the Dept of Halal Cert in Ireland to have their name and brand logos removed because they are not clients of this organisation.

  11. DaithiD,

    it seems that more Muslims are prepared to say that the religion is not hermetically sealed from the murderous ideology, that is it an Islamic problem that needs to be addressed as such by Muslims.


    the only similarity is people were unlawfully murdered? Seriously. I note your total lack of ambiguity about Bloody Sunday constituting murder but I think the similarity is greater than that. That is one similarity but hardly the only one. Both were the victims of terrorism, both were the victims of war crimes which have a timeless quality. The different place, different time hardly works any more than it does when we compare the IRA policy of disappearing with that of Pinochet or Videla. I note that Adams refuses to describe the disappeared as war crimes. He could easily cite "different time, different place" as an excuse. But that is all it would be, an excuse.

    I did not regard the piece as whataboutery given the reference to Birmingham (the type of thing invariably absent from whataboutery). I think there are major similarities between victims of war crimes and we should not refrain from stating it regardless of how it upsets. The notion of no, or very little, similarity is in my view implausible.

    As for my own piece, I can't really be the judge of my own cause and it is up to the readers to make the call on that. But in my view it is not characterised by the double standards that permeate the RDE piece.

  12. Diplock,

    not much to disagree with there.

    Good for you working on that campaign. A piece perhaps at some point for TPQ?

    DaithiD has been very firmly in the critically questioning camp - which refuses to accept the distinction often made that the religious terrorism of the theocrats is not rooted in the religion of Islam.

    I knew a guy in London, senior in the NUJ, and he and I would booze together after the meetings. He would proclaim himself an Islamophobe on the grounds that he did hate Islam, seeing its as a bollix of a religion. In my view people have as much right to hate Islam as they do Celtic or Rangers, or Mormonism, Catholicism and whatever else. Not that I would recommend hatred given its internally corrosive effect, but if people want to hate religion or Marxism or capitalism, that is their choice.

  13. AM, Ive always thought the more people that read the Koran, and heard about who Mohammed was, the more people would phobe up. Muslims had almost a free pass from criticism because of the rough deal other minorities in the West before them suffered and because of the laziness of non-Muslims in assuming they know something they couldnt possibly know (like the risk associated with mortgage derivatives perhaps?).
    Muslims see Mohammeds deeds like certain Republicans saw paedophile/rapey volunteers, something to be ignored and denied until there is a "better" time to deal with it, smear the victims in the mean time. So awful is Mohammeds life story its been 1400 years and counting for this better time.
    (When i say Muslims, I mean those who follow the Koran, not just loosely attach themselves to the definition by birth etc)

  14. AM

    When I have finished lining all my ducks up I figured I'd write it up. The Dept of Agriculture said it would get back to me on the percentages of livestock that are ritually slaughtered -being generous it should not be more than about 1.5%. Did you know that will only investigate complaints where a vendor is claiming the food to be halal but is not. will not investigate complaints of unlabeled halal meat sold to unsuspecting customers. EU Law Article 7 of Directive 2005/29/EC requiring that all ritually slaughtered meat must be labled. Article 38 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees a high level of consumer protection especially if a product is derived from some unconscionable source or method.

  15. Diplock Court,

    I wrote a piece about it in March

  16. Doing lots of "catch up" here on TPQ..I have to believe that the local Taliban blow themselves up outside the Stade de France last weekend and Paris wasn't on a "Lock Down" and 30 odd mins after an ASU from the same branch of the local Taliban shot up a couple of restaurants between the 10th & 11th Arr and there wasn't a cop in site..


    So in laymans terms it is possible today for three suicide bombers to make mince meat of themselves and whoever else in caught in the firing line at "Windsor Park" then 30 mins later fro go from "Ardoyne" shoot a few places up then drive to the "New Lodge" and do the same with out a cop in sight...

  17. I hope you and all yours were ok in the Paris attack Frankie, but are you hinting that some hidden hand was directing it? I dont see any improbable finesse in what they did. Once the material was smuggled into the country, it required no great skill to jump from a car to spray diners etc. I think the timeframe between nodes of attack was much shorter than you imply and Paris is over 11x the size of Belfast. Since they didnt stay in one place so long until Bataclan, I think it was quite imaginable to go from site to site unimpeded by cops.

  18. Daithi, do you want a long answer or a short version?

  19. Frankie,

    I am so pleased you are safe and sound. Good to have your voice around.

  20. UK planned war on Syria before unrest began: French ex-foreign minister

    " The statement by Roland Dumas came during a recent interview with French Parliamentary TV network, LCP. "“I’m going to tell you something. I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria,” said Dumas. He continued by saying, “This was in Britain not in America. Britain was organizing an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer minister for foreign affairs, if I would like to participate.”" Responding to a question on the motive behind inciting violence in Syria, Dumas said, "Very simple! With the very simple aim! To overthrow the Syrian government, because in the region, it's important to understand, that the Syrian regime makes anti-Israeli talk,” said Dumas The former foreign minister added that he had been told by an Israeli prime minister a long time ago that Tel Aviv would seek to “destroy” any country that did not “get along” with it in the region."