This is a guest post by Sammy McNally. It deals with the killing of two British Army corporals, who had accidently stumbled into an IRA funeral (British version) or been carrying out surveillance on the funeral (IRA version). Either way, they were spotted, surrounded, disarmed, dragged from their car, beaten and shot and their bodies dumped….all within about ten minutes.
Writing in the Newsletter earlier this year about the Unionist response to the Corporal Killings Alex Kane said this “I met people – just ordinary middle-of-the-road unionists who spoke – albeit in hushed voices – of the need for loyalist paramilitaries to take the war to the IRA’s front door. There was an anger abroad in the land, a level of anger that I had only sensed once or twice before.”
In his excellent article http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/brave-corporals-deserve-our-respect-1-4973860 Alex is lifting the lid on a number of things – not least just how close many of those ‘ordinary’ Unionists were to going out and shooting ‘ordinary’ Catholics, given that, with the exception of a SF office – the IRA didn’t have a front door.
There was undoubtedly a deep sense of shame and guilt in the Nationalist community tempered by the demand that the actions of the ‘lynch mob’ be seen in the context of the circumstances of the day – the man being buried Caoimhín Mac Brádaigh, was in fact a victim of an armed assault on the previous high profile funeral on the Falls Road just 3 days earlier and the Corporals were armed and believed to be about to launch an attack on the funeral goers – and of course they were British soldiers.
For Nationalists, perspective is required and there is – mitigation. For Unionists there was simply barbarism. Mitigation and perspective being commodities that are of course generally reserved for the actions of one’s own tribe.
It seemed inconceivable to many in Britain and Ireland North and South (irrespective of ideology) and no doubt around the world – that the army who were filming it and the RUC who were monitoring it, did not act quicker to save the men’s lives and the fact that the Corporals themselves didn’t fire on their attackers.
For most people, including SF as evidenced in the statement by Jim McVeigh(Belfast City Council) that irrespective of the reason they arrived there that day – the Corporals were very brave men. (The RUC men who did arrest two of those responsible apparently acted against orders in intervening).
It also seemed inconceivable that the Corporals blundered into the funeral cortege – a view shared by Derek Wood(senior) who is not satisfied by the account given by the army. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2294202/SATURDAY-INVESTIGATION-The-lynch-mob-man-God-truth-atrocity-seared-Britains-psyche-.html
And perhaps of all the horrors of the troubles this event was captured the most graphically – and like Alex’s words when speaking about the reaction of Unionists – this event publically lifted the lid on the seething distrust and potential for naked hatred that exists within Nationalism.
As a Nationalist myself, my reflex is for mitigation – but surely there can be absolutely no mitigation for mob rule?We are then just a small step from turning a blind eye – and then just a further smaller step to justification of the lynch mob.