Perhaps it is a bit much, in an election season, with a major crisis a-building in the Middle East, to expect Americans to concentrate their minds on Ireland. Ninety-nine per cent of Americans do not care about Ireland one way or the other; and the one per cent that do care mostly have attitudes frozen around 1846. (Not just attitudes but knowledge, too: it is quite common to meet "Irish-Americans" who do not know that the Republic of Ireland exists.) This is a pity, because current events in Ireland offer us a great moral drama, and a terrible warning.
The most recent act in the drama took place on Monday night when the British TV news-documentary weekly Panorama — a rough U.S. equivalent would be 60 Minutes — broadcast a program about the Omagh bombing of August 1998 — the worst single atrocity in the "Troubles" of this last thirty years. Republican terrorists set off a car bomb in the main street of Omagh — a small (and, as it happens, largely Catholic) town in Northern Ireland — on a busy shopping day. 29 people died, including several children: Indeed, the number is 31 if you count the twins in the belly of a pregnant woman. Two and a half years later, no-one has ever been arrested for this atrocity.
Which is a peculiar thing, since the identities of the bombers are well known; not just to the police in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, but to the ordinary people of Dundalk, the Irish town (it is just 3 miles south of the border) in which the murderers live and from which the "operation" was planned and executed. One local told the Panorama producers: "In Dundalk, even the dogs in the street know who did it." Following the airing of the TV program on Monday, watched in both Britain and Ireland, everybody in the two islands knows them. Yet no-one in either place believes that anybody will ever do any jail time for that appalling act of mass murder.
Several families of bombing victims are now talking about civil actions against the bombers, in the style of Fred Goldman going after O.J. Simpson. Certainly the bombers are tempting targets. All of them are prosperous small businessmen with assets worth going after. Do not believe the blather you hear from IRA shills like Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Peter King about all these troubles arising from "discrimination" and "deprivation." The modern IRA is a wealthy, powerful criminal enterprise, and those of its members sufficiently well trained to carry out operations like Omagh are swilling in money. As the Irish Independent newspaper noted bitterly, the bombers were much better off than most of their victims. Civil action, of course, does not put anyone in jail; and even if it did, the next amnesty negotiated by Gerry Adams, or the next, would soon have them out again.
The reason no-one will ever do a day of jail time for the mass murder of 29 (or 31) innocent shoppers is that the personnel necessary to accomplish such jailings — police, detectives, judges, juries, witnesses, forensic scientists — are all terrified of the IRA, and have no confidence that the lawfully-constituted authorities in Britain and the Republic could protect them against IRA reprisals.
Their lack of confidence is entirely justified. Under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement of earlier that same year, 1998, the British government has busied itself with accommodations to terrorist demands, from the freeing of terrorist prisoners to the withdrawal of troops and the emasculation of Northern Ireland's police force. The Republic has been even more pusillanimous. The Garda Siochána, Ireland's constabulary, did not even send a representative to the inquest on the Omagh victims. Policemen and prison officers in Ireland know very well what will happen to them if they cross the IRA.
All of which is illustrative of the following important fact about Ireland today: the terrorists have won. There is an endgame to be played out, of course, for the sake of appearances, but there is not much doubt about its final result. The current British government is made up of middle-aged 1960s radicals who never thought Britain had any business in Ireland anyway. They are determined to end the connection by any means that comes to hand. The current government of the Republic has sold its soul to a vapid Euro-economism — to the belief that all the nastiness will melt away, all these fierce patriotic passions wither, under the bright warm sun of economic prosperity and Euro-federalism.
The Ulster Unionists are defeatist, knowing that they can expect no support from the mainland; and still less, of course, from America (in spite of the fact that this country was largely populated by "Scotch-Irish" Ulster Protestants). Ulster Unionism, like Zionism, is an unpopular and inconvenient form of nationalism, and the people who run our world now — the Clintons and the Blairs — are determined to annihilate such tasteless relics of the past.
Unionist defeatism was on display in the Antrim by-election of September 28th. The result delivered a rude shock to David Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party, which has been trying to implement the Good Friday Agreement. The UUP candidate was defeated by a man from Ian Paisley's anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party — a sign, everyone said, that ordinary Unionists were fed up with the Agreement.
Then people noticed that the turnout, at 44 per cent, was unusually low in highly-politicized Northern Ireland. Unionists had mostly stayed home. Those that bothered to vote had split the ticket between UUP and DUP. If this happens at the coming British general election — next fall at the latest — all four counties west of the river Bann could be taken by Republicans — quite likely by the terrorist-front party Sinn Féin. In a first-past-the-post electoral system like Britain's, with three evenly-matched candidates standing you only need 34 per cent of the vote to win.
The Republic of Ireland has elections on the horizon, too, though probably not until Spring 2002. The electoral system there is proportional representation. Paradoxically, this favors Sinn Féin — and therefore the IRA: they are the same actual people in different jackets — just as much as the British system does. SF-IRA has much less support in the Republic than in the North (and much less than in America!) Under first-past-the-post they would never get a seat in the Irish parliament. Under PR, however, they can always be sure of at least one; there is talk of them getting four next time; and in a close election their support may be crucial. Thus the tide is running strongly for SF-IRA both North and South. Everything favors them; everything works for them. By the time of the next Irish election, the British, if their own dreams come true, will effectively be out of Ireland, and SF-IRA will be flushed with success.
If, in addition, there is any faltering in Ireland's march towards a radiant Euro-future; or if the Irish people start to have second thoughts about the whole Euro-federalist project, as is happening in other member countries of the EU, Sinn Féin will be the beneficiary. It is the only plausible nationalist-patriotic party in Ireland. True, it smells rather strongly of blood and smoke; but modern Public Relations techniques can work wonders. Perhaps President Gore will send Jimmy Carville over there as an advisor.
Thus, five years from now, we can look forward to an Ireland united in all but minor details, and with SF-IRA a great force in the land. This monstrous amoral criminal conspiracy, which has spat at the law in Britain, Ireland and the U.S.; which has advanced its cause by deeds of psychopathic ferocity against harmless people; which has shamelessly milked the sentiments (and wallets) of ignorant Americans who imagine that they are supporting "civil rights"; which has carried out a decades-long program of "ethnic cleansing" in the border regions of Ulster, murdering Unionist farmers so that their land can be bought by Republicans; which has allied itself proudly and enthusiastically with every enemy Western civilization had in the twentieth century, from Kaiser Bill through Adolf Hitler to the Soviets and Colonel Gaddafi; which runs a criminal enterprise (drugs, gun-running, money laundering, protection rackets) of a size and ruthlessness to make Don Corleone's eyes pop; this league of cold-eyed killers will have won, and will have Irish democracy by its cowardly green throat.
The moral of this appalling tale is: Terrorism works. You may not care about Ireland; but all over the world, hard-faced men in shabby rooming-houses, and some indeed in government offices and barracks, have been watching, and learning, and are nodding thoughtfully. Terrorism works.