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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
On the theme of forgiveness or An Open Letter to Victor Barker
Karen Elliott • 27 January 2004

In your letter 'Time to Face the Toll' you take Liam O'Ruairc to task for being insensitive concerning your forward for "Black Operations: The Secret War Against the Real IRA" and issued a challenge for him to explain. An earlier review by Liam O'Ruairc on the Dublin and Monaghan bombing may clarify things.

The acceptable response in the court of media and public opinion to Omagh is outright condemnation of the Real IRA. The loss of your son James, and the loss of children in general, gives you the moral high ground as well as a strong emotional position to argue your case from. This does obscure one important element. The reasons why the Real IRA carried out that bombing. The political objectives they thought they could achieve through that action. Physical force republicanism as a tactic is discredited - Omagh has seen to that. This fact should not be used to prevent discussion amongst those who wish to look deeper than a tabloid response to events. For those opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, a refusal of examination of any alternatives by being repeatedly told it's the only show in town, there is no plan B and a review will sort out the teething problems does not make it any more workable in practice.

I remember reading that you had a meeting with the 32 County Sovereignty Movement. Only you and the other people present know what took place.

You mention you are running the London Marathon to demonstrate you care for all human life and to fundraise for victims groups and the police fund. Fundraising for the PSNI is controversial for republicans, which might rule out Liam running alongside you for that particular cause. Aside from that I wish you all the best.

As you refer to forgiveness in your letter, I mention this as it may be relevant. In London there is a short running exhibition - the F Word: Images of Forgiveness. This is a series of international accounts of how people overcome acts of political and other violence carried out against them. There is an accompanying website,, which has the same details - a picture of the individuals and their stories; in some cases both victims and perpetrators, where some form of reconciliation has taken place. This project exists to assist organisations working in the area of victim support, conflict resolution and reconciliation. The purpose of the exhibition is to show how some people have found they can transcend their tragedy and trauma by moving beyond hate and blame. To quote from a interview by Marina Cantacuzino with Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

"Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done. It means taking what has happened seriously and not minimising it; drawing out the sting in the memory that threatens to poison our entire existence. In the telling of stories like these there is real healing."

"To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger."

Two entries may be of interest. One by Mrs Margaret McKinney, whose son Brian was one of the disappeared. She has gone through the stages of wanting revenge to now being open to meeting with the persons who abducted and killed her son. The second entry is Jo Berry/Pat Magee. She initiated contact with Pat Magee. The results of this were filmed and broadcast in autumn 2001 where from what I remember of the programme she asked him why her father had to die.

At a human level, paraphrasing your words, not one more life should be ended in the name of a religious or political belief. Taking the position that the Real IRA are forever unreconstructed terrorists who simply need to learn and acknowledge the error of their ways does not address the question of motivation or change hearts and minds

The question of empathy, forgiveness or the showing of remorse. This cannot be imposed as part of a reparations package of the I am right, you are utterly wrong, now demonstrate this to me. Such meetings should be voluntary and freely entered into by all parties concerned or else it is meaningless. An empty ritual.

The past cannot be altered, its the present and the future that counts now. A forgiveness process is a journey that enables survivors to move on in their lives instead of becoming frozen in a moment of time. Or in rare instances to see some humanity in the enemy whilst not for one moment denying what they have done. And likewise for perpetrators to acknowledge the long term consequences of their actions.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

27 January 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Land Fit for Heroes or a Party Suited to Peelers?
Tommy McKearney


Rest in Peace
Brendan Shannon


Shooting the Fenians

Anthony McIntyre


On the Theme of Forgiveness: An Open Letter to Victor Barker
Karen Elliott


A Response to Victor Barker

Liam O Ruairc


TV Times
Eamon Sweeney


Eamonn McCann and Marion Baur


“All bureaucrats are equal but some are more equal than others”
Peter Hadden


Airport Workers Reply
Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta, and Chris Boyer


20 January 2004


Demise of the Dinosaur?
Eamon Sweeney


The Price the Working Classes Pay for a Pedestal These Days
Mick Hall


The One Eyed Observer

Anthony McIntyre


The Spark in Jeffery
John Fitzharris


Anti-Racism Rally

Davy Carlin


32CSM Condemns PIRA Shooting of Republican Activist
Andy Martin


Semantics of Empire
M. Shahid Alam




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