Thursday, December 04, 2008

The hounding of Maria Gatland...

I don't imagine it will surprise anyone to learn that the Throne has nothing but contempt for the blood-soaked criminals of the IRA, but I have to say that this story about the 'unmasking' and subsequent hounding from office of Conservative councillor Maria Gatland, a former member of that organisation, leaves me feeling distinctly uneasy.

Mrs Gatland was born in Dublin and joined the IRA as an impressionable young woman, convinced of the legitimacy of their campaign to drive the British out of Ireland and thereafter to forge a thirty-two county Republic.

Yes, joining an organisation wedded to violent revolution - and make no bones about it, that is precisely what the IRA was - was incredibly foolish and arguably criminal, but at the time she did so, she was barely in to her twenties.

To her credit, she quickly realised the true, murderous nature of the organisation she had foolishly joined, when in July 1972 IRA bombers killed eleven people and injured scores more in a series of bombings in Belfast and as a consequence, she left the organisation which promptly sentenced her to death for doing so.

Understandably, she then fled Ireland and came to England, where within four years, she met and married her husband, with whom she built a new life, eventually becoming a Conservative councillor in Croydon in 2002 with the aim of 'putting something back into the community'.

In other words, having utterly rejected the murderous violence of the Provisional IRA at the cost of attracting a death sentence for doing so, she set about building a new and respectable life in England. A full thirty years after the scales fell from her youthful eyes, she sought and secured election to her local council in order to serve her community and make it a better place in which to live.

Whilst I appreciate that Mrs Gatland had been, by her own admission, a member of an organisation which was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people and the torture of thousands more, both British and Irish, during the course of 'The Troubles' she had repudiated that membership within a very short period of time.

The question I pose is this; is there to be no rehabilitation, no possibility of redemption, for those like Maria Gatland (nee McGuire) who have realised the error of their ways and set about making amends?

Whatever anyone thinks about the IRA and those who were members of it, it took considerable courage - both moral and physical - for Maria Gatland to leave and condemn her former comrades for the callous murderers that they were, and in my view, thirty-six years down the line, she should be congratulated for that courage, not hounded from office amid a tidal wave of political point-scoring and nauseating righteous indignation.

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