Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sanitising terrorism

It seems that yesterday's terrorists have become today's celebrities. In the modern rush for 'closure' and seeing both sides in every dispute or crime as 'victims', we are rapidly losing sight of the horrors that some individuals and organisations perpetrate against innocent people.

This morning, in Reunion, the BBC allowed Patrick Magee the opportunity to justify his actions as an IRA hit man in the 1970s and '80s. Magee, who planted the bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984, aimed at killing Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet ministers, showed no remorse for what he had done and claimed that he was not a terrorist but an activist, fighting in a war against the English government.

In the chatty style she used when hosting Desert Island Discs, Sue MacGregor appeared to be more concerned that the survivors of the bombing and the relatives of those who died should express their forgiveness of Magee, than that Magee should express any word of regret or shame.

Lord Tebbit, who survived serious injuries in the blast but whose wife has been confined to a wheelchair ever since, refused to take part in the programme. His open letter to the BBC, published in The Daily Telegraph yesterday, is honest, dignified and fair. I am not normally in sympathy with Lord Tebbit's politics but I agree with everything he says in this statement. Magee is a murderer, he had no concern about the innocent lives he was taking, he has not served out his prison sentence and he still insists that his actions were justified.

What did the programme achieve? I was left feeling nauseated, as much by the cosy style of presentation as by the subject matter. I am delighted that there is the hope of peace in Northern Ireland, I believe we should move on from the past and not hold on to anger and the desire for revenge but that is not the same as turning former terrorists into chat show celebrities. And, as Lord Tebbit says, forgiveness requires an acknowledgement of fault and we certainly didn't hear that.

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