It would appear there are still old scores to be settled within the Northern conflict, something which was made apparent to me by a story reported in the week about an arrest made in a thirty year old killing in Armagh.
The case is that of the Celebrated/Notorious Captain Nairac, the original incidents enshrining the classic elements of Greek theatre as tragi-comic farce.
In brief, during a particularly heightened period of the Northern troubles (1977), this young buck with a string of Oxford ‘blues’ and a spell in the Queen’s Grenadier Guards, fancied a crack at infilitration of the ‘subversives’ and sought to woo the locals with a daring undercover incursion. In an act of equal audacity and innocence he made his way to the Three Steps pub in Drumintee, alone and with only a ballad song or two for cover. It wasn’t his first foray and his intuition, or more obviously, his cut glass accent ought to have given the game away immediately but undeterred he foolishly or bravely (take your pick) persisted to the end drinking with newfound bar buddies becoming increasingly more inquisitive as to the activities of lez resistance locale..
Long story short his Narcissic persona proved his undoing and the foolhardy mission met with fatal but predictable results when he was dispatched to oblivion by the local IRA unit.
Death is unpleasant, war is not a nice thing but as Pearse said, “there are some things worse than war and slavery is one of them”. Perhaps Nairac thought that too and hence he took up arms for his own country. Bottom line an armed and willing combatant was shot dead during a deliberate intelligence gathering incursion into enemy territory.
Now what purpose can it possibly serve for his assailant to be arrested and tried today? Will the SAS soldiers that shot dead an entire IRA unit at Loughall be tried and tested? What about those at Gibraltar who took down three IRA members in cold blood?
Those at Bloody Sunday may some day be tried and maybe found guilty and rightly so as an act in violation of any international standard, the murder of civilians, but in the other cases, I don’t think so. War is war, it is rough it is bloody it is unforgiving and can taketh away but it is entered into eyes wide open and should not nor cannot be subject to civil recrimination. Soldiers are trained to kill and Captain Nairac was no different.
Doubtless some petty political consideration belies this current arrest but I suggest for these and similar episodes, the past, unlike Northern Ireland, should indeed be a foreign country..