Thursday, May 14, 2015

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Victims and Vilification

The killing of Gerard Jock Davison in Belfast last week has raised issues that freedom of expression advocates might have cause to be concerned about. The Belfast Telegraph took a scatter gun approach to voices that did not conform to its view of what the approved moral discourse in society should be.

The first target to be hit in the arc of fire from the Tele was the conglomeration of community groups that had expressed collective sympathy for the murdered Davison in the Irish News. The Tele admonished that:

It is not difficult to understand the anger of the McCartney sisters in reacting to Saturday's Irish News advertisement headlined 'Doing Justice To The Memory of Jock Davison', the former IRA commander who was gunned down on a Belfast street last week.

The paper went on to lambast the groups behind the ad for "the further pain inflicted upon the McCartney sisters with the utter crassness of the whole venture”.

It is never difficult to understand the anger of the bereaved in any situation towards what they believe to be the cause of their grief. In this case where the relatives of Robert McCartney were smeared, lied to, given the runaround inter alia by the organisation to which Gerard Davison belonged, it is even easier to understand. What is more difficult to make allowance for is a major newspaper editorial emitting what sounded like a shrill scream of ‘be silent’ towards a differing view. 

Even though the ad placed in the Irish News was unadulterated hagiography, those who wish to express the view within it should be entirely free to do so and the Irish News is not to be faulted for publishing it. Death ads are rarely noted for their objectivity and balance. 

There are questions to be asked about who in the community groups featured, actually approved or even knew anything about the ad that appeared in their name. Catherine McCartney has also asked about how the ad was financed. These are specificities that should be filtered out from the general right of community groups or individuals in the community sector, publicly and in print, to air their respect for a murdered colleague. 

The Telegraph sought to justify its own stance by citing Catherine McCartney, who told the paper that:

it is utterly inappropriate that community groups, particularly those representing women and children, are honouring someone who brought death and destruction into the lives of women and children across this city.

I take the opposite view, finding it peculiar were the groups not to honour one of their own, that they should be told that only some victims of murder are to be honoured, in some way being compelled to acquiesce in the view that some murders are less murderous that others. I know that when the onetime UVF leader and later community worker Billy Mitchell died, I attended his Carrick funeral and later penned an obituary in tribute of him. I did this in the full knowledge that he had helped direct the UVF campaign. 

The basis for the assertion made by Catherine McCartney seems to have been Jock Davison’s membership of the IRA and her belief of what he did while in it. In a public exchange with myself Catherine McCartney claimed that Davison was a murder suspect. That is not evidence of murder, just evidence that the police claim to have suspicions that somebody is involved in murder. There are serious questions to be asked of the police in the case of Robert McCartney’s murder as to whom they suspected of just what. The police put a “suspect” in this case before a court as the knifeman in the certain knowledge that he was not.

Not that Catherine McCartney is wrong about the activities of Jock Davison. As a former senior IRA leader we would be deluding ourselves to think he played no part in directing the IRA’s war which during its course brought grief to many homes. But an aggregate of assumptions and police suspicions are not the basis for how people are to be procedurally treated within society, where the rule of law and not rule by police is supposed to be the bedrock of how people interact with the public sphere including the work place. We as individuals can believe what we want about people, refuse to deal with them and deny them access to our private space. Society cannot on the basis of that belief treat them as if they are in fact guilty of what we believe them guilty of and subsequently, on the basis of suspicion, exclude them.

The second target of the Tele was Alliance Party councillor and community worker, Paula Bradshaw. 

It is therefore all the more understandable that Paula Bradshaw, the Alliance election candidate in South Belfast, outraged the McCartney sisters when she described Jock Davison as "a committed worker", and that "what he did before that in his past is for others to comment upon".

If Davison was a committed worker, as Bradshaw claims to have found him, she was wholly right to express that view. Billy Mitchell too was a committed worker. If Paula Bradshaw came to view Jock Davison in a certain light based on her experience, that is her judgement. She is not demanding that everybody else see him that way. Nor is she justifying his past, but merely implying that it had no bearing on his work and that others who know, rather than suspect, are best placed to discuss it.

Nor can it be demanded of her that her experience be gainsaid by what is essentially the hearsay of others regarding the past of Jock Davison. Apart from his membership of the IRA, in a situation where the rule of law had not ruled against him, what could she state with conviction about him? For her to have been the recipient of editorial fulminations that managed to sound more like a TUV press release than the voice of reason, was the real crassness at the heart of this hectoring venture.

Stripped of editorial posturing Paula Bradshaw is being vilified for nothing more than describing how she experienced Jock Davison. It is vitally important that people are free to make up their own minds based on the knowledge they have obtained. The notion that people must eschew a view of Jock Davison not congruent with our own is anathema to thinking people.

Finally, the Tele stated: 

It is no wonder that Catherine McCartney has stated in today's Belfast Telegraph that Paula Bradshaw's "crass comment illustrates how badly victims are treated in Northern Ireland".

Victims have been shoddily treated. There is little room for doubt on that, although not because of Paula Bradshaw. Victims’ anger as a means of curbing bad treatment is salutary. Victims’ status as a swagger stick, in the hands of whoever, for clubbing opinion and marginalising discourse that dissents from victims' demands is something of a different order.


marty said...

What irks me re that add in the Vatican Times which I said should have been titled From Zero To Hero was not so much the content but the fact that it reeked of quisling $inn £eind, and therefore two fingers to the Mc Cartney Family and a clear indication that hypocrisy still rules in that party,had it been a genuine outpouring of grief by community groups I could have sucked it up not maybe liked it but accepted it , but this was not the case it was I,m sure a public pronouncement from quisling $inn £eind that they still control all the poSts, nothing else, this time Davidson was just another pawn in their game,which is self promotion.Gorbels would have loved it.

Henry JoY said...

I believe it was Wilde who said that "the only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."

Of course William James' quip that "A great many people will think they are thinking when they are merely re-arranging their prejudices" has relevance here too.

marty said...

Hypocrisy not a way of getting back to the moral high ground.Pretending your moral,saying your moral is not the same as acting morally...Alan Dershowitz

Tain Bo said...


you believe or you know, the I believe infers uncertainty not that either quote is relevant as both display a disdain in their own prejudice one you find appealing.

[Raymond Roussel] said that after his first book he expected that the next morning there would be a kind of aura around his person and that everyone in the street would be able to see that he had written a book. This is the obscure desire harboured by everyone who writes. It is true that the first text one writes is neither written for others, nor because one is what one is: one writes to become other than what one is. One tries to modify one's way of being through the act of writing.

Tossing up a quote or two does not enhance ones position and sinks like a lead balloon when preceded with I believe I know who penned the above as I still read his writings as he had a good habit of making windows where there are walls.

Even though you speak as self-enlightened that enlightenment is a wall with no window for you to hide behind and safely admire the constraints on discourse. Governments are a virus that spreads through the people it is they whom decide right and wrong.

Being an Irishman subjected to British rule, should I relinquish my beliefs and adopt the core values of a system that is both foreign and oppressive to me. My answer is no, I will continue to question and refuse to be pushed into the corner of silence and become blindly obedient to another corrupt system.

Your policy of acceptance is another safety net better to think as they do and believe their way is the only way.
That policy directs change in whichever manner they see fit best not to seek change but let those in power decide for us. The great deception of politeness and civility for example polite society holds nuclear missile not to protect itself as it infers but to destroy others and the others hold the same to destroy them.

It is acceptable for an aggrieved nation to invade another nation with or without legitimate reason however if people are critical of governments playing kingdoms and castles they are cast into the dissident dungeons for the lesser crime of not accepting the policy of government knows best.

Neither quote is relevant they amount to a force feeding tube down your throat supplying you with enough nourishment to sustain you but left in a frail state unable to do much let alone think for yourself.

If copying and pasting some outdated thoughts makes you feel wiser fair play. I will stick with the idea that whatever bit of knowledge my brain holds is in a constant state of being updated.
Better to dissect thought than take it at its word

Henry JoY said...

TB I find it amusing and ironic (though not in the least surprising Lol) that you would choose to continue your personalised 'critiques' of my comments on a post which essentially addresses curtailment of freedom of expression through manipulative and hostile condemnations of dissenting voices.

Organized Rage said...

"A great many people will think they are thinking when they are merely re-arranging their prejudices" has relevance here too.


Not really sure about this, myself I rearrange my 'prejudices' regularly in order of priority, although I might consider them hatreds. I have always felt an instinctive hatred of an oppressor is no bad thing;)

John Lindsay said...

"As a former senior IRA leader we would be deluding ourselves to think he played no part in directing the IRA’s war which during its course brought grief to many homes."

Maybe he did, but most of the killings to which Davison has been linked occurred after the IRA declared a 'complete cessation of military operations'

All of the victims were unarmed civilians.

Of the killings for which a claim of responsibility was made, the 'justification' offered was that the victims were alleged to have contravened British drug laws. The British government dismissed these killings as 'internal housekeeping' by the IRA.

There are a lot of words that could be used to describe such acts; murder, state sanctioned murder and serial murder all spring to mind.

'Acts of war' does not.

Tain Bo said...


if you are just thinking aloud it is best not to post the thought as that leaves it open for dissection.
The last time you rearranged your prejudice was your stab at me in the monastery slipping on a boning knife.
I was engaging and not curtailing your freedom so as before drop the act.

On this one, you use two quotes offering no explanation as to why you find them relevant.
Essentially letting others speak for you in a lazy fashion of masking your own opinion on the subject.

The exaggeration factor rises I was unaware that I shadow your every comment. As before, it is 99% imaginary on your end.

Henry JoY said...

Mick your posts and comments have rarely or if ever come across as those of a man motivated by hatred ... my sense is more of a man fuelled by compassion, fraternity and a belief in justice.

I interpret what James says as a caution against reacting from a place of intense passion without allowing for some measured reflection. Otherwise we're prone to shifting about the various positions of the 'drama triangle' and finding ourselves acting out unthinkingly the roles of persecutor, rescuer and victim.

As you may have noticed I still get caught up in the drama triangle occasionally! :)