6 November 2008 Edition
Mary Nelis Column
Tragedies of conflict
THE HISTORY of conflict throughout the world is littered with human beings who disappear and who are literally never seen again. It doesn’t matter whether they go missing as a result of conventional or guerrilla war – they are the tragic consequences of conflict.
The worldwide statistics in numbers of human beings who disappear never to be seen again, are stark. The suffering of the families, those left behind, without a grave or marker to ease their pain cannot be measured. In Iraq, one million people have disappeared during different conflicts since 1988. After the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1990, 17,000 people disappeared. Tens of thousands are on the list in South Africa and Angola, and Pakistan.
We all know the story of ‘the disappeared’ in Argentina and Guatemala.
In contemporary times, there are no estimates for the number of people who have disappeared into the ‘black holes’ created by the US ‘war on terror’
As a Red Cross spokesperson has stated: “During armed conflict, people can go missing in many ways and for many reasons.”
Indeed, in our situation, during the counter-revolution of the Civil War, Fine Gael handed over the bodies of many who disappeared some five years after the war ended.
In the conflict of the past 40 years in the North, some 20 people have gone missing but only those whose disappearance can be connected, however loosely, to republican armed organisations are officially classified as ‘’the disappeared’’. Others originally listed as missing have been removed from the list for political reasons, namely that their disappearance could not be connected to republican armed groups.
Among those I can recall are two young Protestant brothers in the 1970s and, more recently, Lisa Dorrian, believed to be murdered by the UVF.
Every now and then, in an effort to make themselves relevant, the SDLP raises the issue of “the disappeared’’. The motion put forward by the SDLP and debated in the Assembly on Monday was not really about concern for ‘the disappeared’ or the suffering of their relatives. The subsequent debate and media coverage proved that. It was felon setting of the worst kind for it was using the grief of relatives as a political point-scoring exercise against Sinn Féin.
Dominic Bradley knew full well that reactionary unionism would seize on any excuse to attack the Sinn Féin leadership and an emotive issue such as ‘the disappeared’ would appeal to the base sectarian nature of ultra-unionism.
The bait was taken up by Nelson McCausland, the former secretary of the Lord’s Day Observance Society, that body of Sabbath worshippers which refused to allow children to use the parks in Belfast on a Sunday but see nothing wrong with the dregs of the UDA and the UVF screaming obscenities and physically attacking peaceful demonstrators at last Sunday’s RIR ‘welcome home’ fiasco.
If the SDLP is really concerned about ‘the disappeared’, perhaps they might consider asking the British Government about the role of the British Intelligence services in this matter. Judging from the media reports of the debate, this motion will be seen for what it is: the SDLP lining up with the most sectarian elements of the DUP to score points against Gerry Adams.
The relatives of ‘the disappeared’ are not fools.
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- Don't miss your chance to get the second edition of the 2019 magazine, published to coincide with Easter Week
- This special edition which focuses on Irish Unity, features articles by Pearse Doherty, Dr Thomas Paul and Martina Anderson.
- Pearse sets out the argument for an United Ireland Economy whilst Pat Sheehan makes the case for a universally free all-island health service.
- Other articles include, ‘Ceist teanga in Éirinn Aontaithe’, ‘Getting to a new Ireland’ and ‘Ireland 1918-22: The people’s revolution’.