13 September 2001 Edition
A massive human tragedy
The appalling catastrophe in New York and Washington is above all a massive human tragedy. The full extent of the casualties is not yet known but they must run into thousands. The wave of shock, grief and mourning is only beginning to reach beyond the East Coast of the US. Many Irish families will be bereaved. The human consequences are as yet incalculable.
This tragedy will have lasting political and economic consequences. Not since the American Civil War has the United States seen such a scale of violent death on its territory. Even during the Second World War, US citizens did not suffer the mass bombing of civilians from the air which caused such devastation in Europe and Asia. Such an unprecedented event must have a huge impact on US society and politics.
It is too early to assess who was responsible for this attack. No matter who was to blame, it was utterly reprehensible and must be condemned. The deliberate killing of civilians is always wrong, no matter whether it is governments, armed political groups or individuals who carry it out.
There has already been a rush to blame particular groups. Little evidence has emerged to back these claims. There is a real danger now that the very diverse Muslim community worldwide will be scapegoated. No one should be made to suffer because of their religion or because of the region from which they come. There is an even greater danger that the US government and military may now lash out and make innocent civilians in other countries pay for what it is describing as an act of war.
We know only too well how in the Middle East and in Central America the pursuit of a militaristic and aggressive policy by US governments and by those governments it sponsored, led to the deaths of many thousands of innocent people. It will compound the tragedy of 11 September 2001 if that is repeated.
The perpetrators of the atrocities in Washington and New York may well have their origins in the political disaster area which is the Middle East. But it is a disaster area for which the `West' and its client governments bear much responsibility. Lashing out in that direction at targets vaguely defined under the label `international terrorism' will fulfil only the desire for revenge and ultimately inflame the region yet further.
Calm assessment may be impossible at the moment but it is vital in the days ahead if further conflagration is to be avoided.
Sympathy extended to people of the United States
Speaking following the tragic events in the United States on Tuesday, when thousands lost their lives in large scale attacks in New York and Washington, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP said:
``It was with deep shock that I learned of the attacks which took place this afternoon on the east coast of America. The enormity of what has happened is difficult to absorb. I unequivocally condemn these attacks.
``On behalf of Sinn Féin, I would like to offer my sincere sympathy to President Bush and the people of the United States on the terrible loss of life following today's attacks. It is tragic for so many people to die in circumstances like these and we offer our condolences to all those who have been killed and injured.''
Also extending deepest sympathy to the people of the United States and all those bereaved this week, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
``Given the massive scale of casualties it is virtually certain that every county in Ireland will be directly affected by loss of loved ones. Because of the close connections between the Irish people and the people of the United States, and the number of our citizens, relatives and friends who have over generations made a new home on that side of the Atlantic, this is a tragedy which deeply affects us.
``I am certain that the Irish people will respond generously to any calls for practical help which will be made. Once again I offer sincere condolences to the bereaved and injured.''
On Tuesday, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness met with US ambassador to Ireland, Richard Haas in a meeting described by Sinn Féin as ``very useful, friendly and constructive''. They pointed out that the ambassador's continued presence, in the context of events in the US, was evidence of the administration's commitment to the peace process in Ireland.
The Sinn Féin leaders again offered their sympathy during a meeting that ranged across the difficulties in the peace process that have arisen during the summer: the resignation of David Trimble as First Minister, the British government's suspension of the institutions, the withdrawal by the IRA of its offer on weapons, the loyalist campaign against Catholics, the crisis around policing, the arrest of three Irish republicans in Colombia and the blockade of the Holy Cross school in Ardoyne.
On Colombia, Gerry Adams made it clear that Sinn Féin had no case to answer in relation to the arrests. For his part, Haas outlined US foreign policy and national securoity interests in that region. The essential part of the meeting centred on the progress required by 23 September if sufficient progress is to be made to end the crisis and see the process consolidated and advanced.