Arlene Foster engaging in brazenly divisive whataboutery

Posted By: December 09, 2020



Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, December 9, 2020


What’s Arlene Foster doing writing to the taoiseach asking for inquiries into Irish inquiries about IRA killings and her even more preposterous assertion, into, “the many unanswered questions regarding the role of the Irish state in arming and assisting the IRA in its campaign”? She appended a maximum-gatherum [ a hotchpotch] of cases already examined and rejected for the absence of evidence.


Foster also referred to the “new evidence that came to light in Smithwick tribunal.” There isn’t any. Smithwick’s inquiry into the killing of two senior RUC officers ambushed by the IRA in 1989 concluded controversially that, although “there is no direct evidence, no smoking gun… evidence points to someone in [Dundalk] Garda station assisting the IRA”. That’s it: nothing new.


What’s Foster up to? Why now? Whataboutery. If Carlsberg did whataboutery they couldn’t hold a candle to Foster’s Olympic standard. Foster’s well-publicized letter is a brazenly divisive response to last week’s coverage of the British government’s disgraceful failure to fulfill its promises and obligations to hold a public inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane by British security force proxies. They wanted him dead so they put up their agents in the UDA to kill him. Everyone knows that. We even know their names. British prime minister Cameron admitted it and apologized for it.


Ironically even Foster’s letter is an unwitting admission of that truth because her response has been in effect, okay so the British government was involved in Finucane’s killing, well then – wait for it – ‘what about’ the Irish government’s involvement in killings? Except there is none.


Individual gardaí and Irish soldiers may have passed information to the IRA and strange things did happen, particularly in Donegal, but it was never Irish government policy. Most importantly, no Irish minister ever even suggested, nod, nod, wink, wink, that it might be a good idea to help the IRA. Whereas with the British government it was more than a tactic; it was a strategy pursued in all colonial insurrections: Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, to name but three. Create proxy or pseudo-gangs, arm them, and have them kill enemies of the British state.


In response to Foster’s letter, Micheál Martin has agreed to meet her but reminded her that “the Irish government has stepped up to the plate in relation to these issues” and referred to the Smithwick inquiry. He added that “the British government did not follow through in terms of the Finucane inquiry and in our view, they should have.”


Foster knows all that. She also knows there will be no inquiries because Martin’s phrase that the government “has stepped up to the plate in these issues” made that clear. However, Foster, who is openly playing to her own constituency in this dog whistle charade, will be able to claim that the Irish government refused to hold any inquiries she demanded, just the same as the British eh? Pathetic isn’t it?


The trouble with this futile merry-go-round is that it stokes Unionist paranoid myths about Irish governments, promotes sectarian solidarity among Unionists, helps perpetuate division and mistrust here, and prevents decent Unionists saying what they must believe, namely that state-sponsored killing can’t be compared with killings by insurrectionary organizations like the IRA which did not recognize the legitimacy of British law in Ireland.


Unless that is, Arlene Foster wants to place the IRA on the same footing as the British security forces, but then that would mean placing the British security forces on the same footing as the IRA which means it was okay for them not to be subject to the law of the land.


Unfortunately, since the tribal pressure to conform last week meant not one single unionist criticized the British government for reneging yet again on its solemn obligations, it appears that publicly at least, unionists think it’s okay for the British state to be complicit in killing its own citizens – as long as they’re not Unionists