The U.K. government is currently going after ex-servicemen for carrying out their duty in Northern Ireland. Special forces will feel the pinch most, as the majority of the terrorists killed there were killed by the SAS. While terror chiefs brokered a deal with Tony Blair giving them immunity from prosecution—whether guilty or not—soldiers who were obediently carrying out orders from those above them are now being hung out to dry.
While Theresa May was announcing how “tank-chasing lawyers” were to be clamped down upon, her spin doctors were using it as cover to announce their latest legal pursuit of troops who have done nothing except their job. Meanwhile, in the province, the political scene is riddled with leaders formed from the ranks of political and terrorist organizations. These are the people now trying to heap pressure on the government to have innocent, proud old men brought forward for questioning regarding so-called crimes they have allegedly committed.
Operation Banner was 27 years of drawn-out civil unrest with the worst of the atrocities being caused by Republican (Irish)-supporting terror organisations. The Loyalist (U.K.-supporting) areas of the country also had their fair share of terror gangs, but as a rule they were not targeting government forces. This, by the way, does not make them OK in my book, and both caused injury and death to innocent people. The U.K. deployed its armed forces originally to protect the Republican estates, but within months, those groups had turned against the troops and the troubles began in earnest. Troops and armed police patrolled both rural and urban areas of the province.
I served a total of over five years comprised of four tours. I only came into contact with the enemy for a fraction of that time—literally minutes. All activity was over in seconds as far as explosions or rounds flying, as none of the so-called terrorists really had the belly for getting into a proper fight. Soon they would resort to tactics of ambush-style bombs or shootings; they very rarely stayed in position for less than a few seconds before running away. They would target people who were off duty or unarmed instead of getting into a battle with those who could fight back.
They hijacked civilians and strapped them to bombs they were not capable of delivering themselves, and then blew them up remotely from the comfort of firing points well out of range or sight of those who may engage them. We used to refer to these people as suspects while they roamed around in broad daylight under our noses. It was a joke; we all knew who they were and even what they had done. But a string of talented lawyers would get them off on minor technicalities. Even when caught red-handed, these people would sometimes walk free thanks to lawyers who knew the loopholes in the law. The various intelligence agencies would work tirelessly to get even the smallest of convictions.
Once locked up, the terrorists would then become demanding. They wanted to be treated like prisoners of war. They had hunger strikes and some even died in their efforts to try to get the government to accept them as prisoners of war. Unfortunately, to become a POW, you need to fight like a soldier. You need to have a proper cause and not just be disgruntled because the majority who vote want something else. They complained that they were being treated as criminals, yet they were happy to blow innocent people apart. They had no intention of fighting a war with the British troops. All they could do was launch small attacks and then run back under the stones from which they crawled.
This was all to come to an end with the terror attacks of 9/11. Terrorism suddenly became unacceptable to everyone including those who were funding the efforts of the Republican and Loyalist thugs. Bin Laden took things to a new level with his attacks on the people of America. But this was to be the end of the relatively futile efforts of gangs like the Provisional IRA. Terrorism in any capacity was just not fashionable. Whether you call yourself a freedom fighter or a jihadi, nobody of decent upbringing wants to support you or your cause.
Up stepped Tony Blair, who was to eventually try to take some of the credit for the so-called peace in Northern Ireland. He went and met with the leaders of the main organizations, who were now calling themselves Sin Feinn (Irish republican political party) and who were now considered politicians. All of a sudden there was pardons being handed out, people being freed from sentences, and everything was declared OK.
Well that was a waste of 27 years of hard-fought hours on the streets by troops and intelligence services just to have Blair come in and tread on it like a discarded cigarette butt. The loss of life of innocents on both sides of the community have suddenly been forgotten as champagne corks are popped and our trusted leaders celebrate a job well done.
Now these people, who still have the same agenda as they had when The Troubles were in full swing, are influencing the powers that be in order to achieve their aims. What they failed to notice is that the republic went down the tubes with what it had. Even one more county would have been too much to support, let alone the whole of the north.
Sadly, as much as I’m sure they liked to feel wanted, the fact was the south would have piled in years ago with them in tow, and could never have supported the extra weight. So for all the kicking and screaming, they were all chasing an impossible dream. I think they probably realize this now, and so they are taking their frustrations out by continuing hostile acts, going after British soldiers for having done their duty.
If you really want to have somebody answer your questions or be pulled through the mixer, asks the politicians and the people who were signing off on the work these brave men carried out. Where are they now? Enjoying retirement on a decent pension, no doubt, and telling everyone how they brought about peace in Northern Ireland.
Featured image courtesy of The Independent