It happened today - September 25, 2015

A Yes poster for the Good Friday AgreementIt’s now been exactly 10 years since the IRA officially disarmed in front of independent weapons inspectors on September 25 2005. Which strikes me as one more case of digging in the wrong place.

I don’t mean it was wrong to make peace with the IRA. I loathe the Irish Republican Army, despise their cause and regard their fellow-travellers with disgust, although I recognize that the British record in Ireland is for the most part either shabby or disgraceful, a true blot on Britannia’s generally splendid escutcheon. And I know the situation in Northern Ireland remains very difficult. But you make peace with your enemies not your friends, so the IRA had to be dealt with one way or the other.

What I find weird is insisting that they disarm. It took them years to do so after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in April 1998 and I see their point. I know, I know, when you’re demanding that terrorists stop shooting people and blowing things up it seems natural to say OK, hand over the arsenal. Which was big and included a lot of scary stuff. But guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

The right of citizens to resist tyranny is an ancient British right, stretching back to the end of the Roman occupation. It was vigorously restated in the 1688 Bill of Rights as well as in its American offshoot a century later. And if the IRA were truly determined to continue violence, they could always get more guns, explosives and so on. There is no shortage of people willing to fund and supply subversion in free societies. Indeed they could surrender many and keep some, as various splinter groups did.

Moreover, if the IRA really accepted peace, there would have been no reason to make them give up guns they no longer wanted to use. My sympathies are with them this far, though this far only: They feared they were giving up their ability to resist in return for hollow promises. And for what?

If the British authorities meant their side of the deal, and the IRA meant their side, there was no need for the latter to disarm now that they were prepared to become law-abiding citizens. If the British did not, it was foolish for them to do so, and if they did not, it was deceitful.

It is a classic materialist solution to a moral problem. But it is never good to do something that is necessarily either foolish or deceitful. Hatred flares up in the human heart, and if it is not put out there, it is pointless to try to extinguish it by squirting something down the barrel of a gun.

It happened todayJohn Robson