RIP Troy Davis

Troy DavisGenerally, it is not my wont to go about airing my views on the socio-legal policies of other nations, but the execution of Troy Davis has left me so saddened and angry that a failure to raise comment on it seemed wholly inappropriate. As I went to bed last night, I hoped against hope that when I awoke today, Mr Davis would still be alive. Instead, the last minute Supreme Court consideration of his case ended up being little more than a cruel stringing-along of a man who must have already felt like he’d been put through months of psychological torture. Mr Davis was pronounced dead at 11.08pm, Jackson time (4.08am here in Ireland and the UK).

Mark MacPhailNow let me get one thing clear. Yes, Mr Davis – if his claims of innocence were true – did suffer horribly unjustly during his years on death row. However, the friends and family of his alleged victim, Mark MacPhail, also experienced what I can only imagine to be horrific shock, grief and enduring, piercing grief since Mr MacPhail was tragically and disgustingly murdered. In all the commentary that has been doing the rounds on Mr Davis in the last few days, I’ve seen the MacPhail family mentioned really rather infrequently. I feel rather uncomfortable with such omissions. We must not forget their loss, and the changed lives they’ve had to lead thanks to that. I still think that victims are often the forgotten, yet most important, denominator in modern criminal justice, which is a frankly scandalous state of affairs. A young man man lost his life here; a woman lost her son, another her husband, two (then very small) children their father. Do not forget Mark MacPhail. He was an innocent in all this.

The thing is, Troy Davis may well also have been an innocent. I’m not going to pretend to know his background here, but based on the reports I read in the lead-up to the execution, it’s probably safe to say that he wasn’t an absolute angel. His Wikipedia article (which seems well-sourced) states that some people knew him as “Rough as Hell” and that he had problems with attendance at both school and work. On the other hand, some people have described him as “likeable” and as a brother-like figure to children in his neighbourhood. One minor arms offence is listed before the night of Mr McPhail’s murder, suggesting that Mr Davis wasn’t, perhaps, always on the right side of the law. Indeed, so-called evidence in his conviction of the MacPhail killing claims to link ballistics in that case with another shooting attributed to Davis that same night (a dubious claim explored more below).

So was Troy Davis an exemplary citizen? Probably not. But so what? His background, good, bad or both, is not where the burden of proof lies. The burden of proof lies with prosecutors – and they are required to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the evidence they produce against the defendant shows him or her to be the assailant in the crime being tried.

This was not done in the case of Troy Davis, and that is why his execution was such utter folly, worthy of nothing but condemnation.

I’m supposing most people who read this blog already know the circumstances surrounding this case, but lest that not be the case, here are a few points of information (garnered from this succinct but revealing piece in The Grauniad).

  • Seven out of nine witnesses at Davis’ trial have modified some or all of their evidence in the years since.
  • At least a number of these witnesses were unable to read, so therefore had no idea what kind of witness statements they were signing.
  • One of the jurors at Davis’ 1991 trial, Brenda Forrest, stated at the time that he was “definitely guilty”. However, upon learning of the seven witnesses changing their evidence, she has declared that were she trying Davis now, she would have easily found him “not guilty”. She’s not the only juror in the case to have come out in defence of Mr Davis.
  • Allegations of police coercion against witnesses have been made.
  • There was no forensic nor DNA evidence linking Mr Davis to the crime, and the weapon that murdered Mr MacPhail was never found. There are claims that ballistics reports suggest the gun that killed him was linked with an earlier incident allegedly involving Davis – presumably the bullets and residue in each case were identical – but without definite eye-witness accounts of Davis firing this weapon, and especially given that it has never been found, this apparent ‘proof’ of his involvement seems spurious at best.
  • One witness in the case – one of the two that did not change his testimony against Davis – admitted to owning a gun of the same model that was used in the shooting. No big deal in and of itself, you might think – owning guns is a fairly common practice in the USA – however, the man in question has been implicated by nine separate people as a more likely perpetrator in the crime for which Davis was convicted. It is therefore speculated, especially since he was the person that first implicated Davis in the MacPhail killing, that he had Davis ‘set up’ in order to secure his own immunity from prosecution. Indeed, one witness claims to have heard this man confess to the crime.

Although some of these points are circumstantial, the point about the lack of forensic/DNA material in itself speaks volumes. I cannot imagine a trial in the UK without any meaningful physical evidence even coming to court these days, never mind resulting in a conviction – and any that did would, unless new and more definitive evidence for the prosecution arose, likely be overturned on appeal, unlike in Mr Davis’ multitude of cases.

Furthermore, on this side of the pond (and, to be fair, in certain areas across the pond too) there’s a fall-back: although you’d be sentenced to life imprisonment (up to 25 years, depending on the severity and, sadly, notoriety of the case), which isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs, at least you’d be alive. Some argue that they’d rather die than spend their life in a prison cell, and personally I’d be one of them – but, the fact is, incarceration at least allows you to appeal your case. Granted, Troy Davis was on death row for 20 years before his final execution (though he had three dates previous to this, one of which was stayed only 90 minutes or so before its scheduled time) – but his sentence still resulted in the ultimate finality, and although people will do it on his behalf, he can never again proclaim his innocence nor fight to prove it.

I’ve always been against the death penalty for logistical reasons, though in terms of the theory behind it, I used to be much more ambivalent. I remember once frequenting a forum and finding some of the commentary against it to be witheringly trite. “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind,” somebody whined. Who was it originally said that? Ghandi or some such? I’d have expected better from him. An eye is only taken if an eye has been already taken. I, for example, have not taken an eye. You most likely haven’t either. Therefore we face no commupence, so how will we – and ergo the whole world – end up blind?

But blithe as the sentiment is, I’ve come to regard the death penalty as a pretty vile method of punishment. As I said, I’ve always opposed it for logistical reasons – those being simply that it is a very, very rare case where it can be 100%, definitively proven that the defendant(s) is (are) guilty. 95%, 99%, 99.9% maybe – but to take away someone’s very life, you have to be certain. Troy Davis’ guilt was one of the most far-from-certain cases I’ve heard of in many, many years.

Two further reasons have brought me to oppose capital punishment. One, in some cases (as noted briefly above) a guilty person would rather die than rot in prison for the rest of his or her natural life. If someone believes so strongly in retribution, why give the perpetrator what they want? More importantly, however, is point two – if the accused really is guilty of killing, what kind of example does the state set when it then kills them? Is that not showing governmental agencies to be falling exactly to their charge’s murderous levels?

Anyway, there are widespread statistics [PDF] demonstrating no causal link between a reduction in crime and the death penalty (in order words, there is no real evidence that it functions as a deterrent). If anything, US states that still use capital punishment have a similar, and even sometimes higherrate of violent crime. So what the bloody hell does it actually achieve?!

Of further concern is the high rate of ethnic minorities incarcerated on death row. To assume that non-white individuals are inherently more violent or criminal than other ethnicities is repugnantly simple racism. Although I believe that choosing to commit a crime is a personal choice, with which come personal responsibility, if it is really true that racial minorities commit serious crimes more often than whites – a claim that I find extremely dubious at best – then surely we ought to look at the social context in which these crimes occur. Prevention is better than cure, after all. If this is true (and, I’d again re-iterate, I don’t think that it is), is it really about race, or is it more likely to be about deprivation, a lack of unenforced social cohesion and the experience of abject poverty than many non-whites experience in their lives?

Proponents of the death penalty may argue that even if it does not include elements of deterrence (they may try to dispute the statistical evidence for that too), then at least it will bring the friends and family of the accused’s victim(s) some closure. As The Daily Fail (amongst others), in a surprisingly balanced (if too celebrity-laden) article notes, the family of Mark MacPhail feel that justice has been done in executing Troy Davis.

Again, though, there is reasonable doubt as to whether or not Davis was guilty. Even if Mr McPhail’s family truly believe that Davis was the perpetrator of this horrid murder, justice cannot really be served if the wrong person has been executed – beliefs of guilt, even with the best intentions and most understandable motives, cannot count. When it comes to the criminal law, only evidence counts. And that was very thin on the ground in this case. As Davis’ sister put it, “When justice is found for Troy, there will be justice for Officer MacPhail.”

Therein lies the ultimate point. I don’t know if Troy Davis murdered Mark MacPhail or not. I wasn’t there. Only the perpetrator, whoever he was, knows/knew for certain. But executing a potentially innocent man is not ‘justice’, and the crux of this argument is that proof of Mr Davis’ guilt was very, very scant. Ending someone’s life on the basis of “well, yeah, maybe he did it” – and I can’t find much evidence to suggest that it was anything else – is both ethically and legally abhorrent.

As one excellent tweet on the matter commented, “The execution of a guilty man does not make me safe. The…execution of an innocent man [as based on the available evidence] makes me fear for my safety.”

RIP Mark McPhail and Troy Davis. Your friends and family are in my thoughts.

Standard disclaimer: don’t know the MacPhails, don’t know the Davises, not a judge, not a social commentator, not a lawyer, not even an American, all opinions my own, may be misinformed, have tried to give accurate information but do not accept responsibility for any errors I may unintentionally have published, believe in free speech but don’t you dare flame me, just a dumb Irish broad with too much to say so feel free to ignore everything I have ever and will ever say. Cheers.

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Rant: London Riots

Slightly off-topic, since this is a mental health blog, but sod it. This situation cannot be ignored by me. I am fucking disgusted beyond description.

As if the riots themselves were not bad enough, I am beyond appalled to see some people defending the actions of those responsible. Sorry, but WHAT?!

I can not express how offensive such sentiments are to me. As someone who has lived through riots, through bombings, shootings and other forms of “civil unrest”, I cannot fathom how anyone can think the fear, danger and destruction that is evoked in these circumstances is justified in any way. Do you know what it’s like to live with this every fucking night? How do you think ordinary, non-rioting people in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham and Liverpool must’ve felt…and must still feel? Do you care? If you don’t, then your opinion is worthless to begin with, and you should go and fuck yourselves, you selfish, sadistic fucking dickheads. If you do, how you can reconcile that sense of giving a shit about the rest of the human race with supporting those involved in this scandal is a mystery to me.

Let me get a few things clear. The Metropolitan Police certainly have a lot of questions to answer, and I utterly condemn the killing of Mark Duggan; regardless of the man’s background, killing an unarmed man is a reprehensible act for any state agency (or anyone else for that matter) to engage in. Of course you should have the right to protest if your police service is behaving in a brutal fashion. I support the point that the original protesters in Tottenham were trying to make.

Furthermore, the government is indubitably guilty of marginalising a large number of societal groups, as were many governments before them. I loathe the present administration, as previous posts on this blog will testify, and I think every single one of them should be ashamed of themselves for the way they have consistently allowed an arguable form of oppression of a number of different demographic groups within this country. Again, of course protests are justified when there is such a sense of disenfranchisement.

Protests are not riots, however. Protests are not looting and theft. Protests are not arson. Protests are not inhibiting the work of fire-fighters and the ambulance service. Protests are not attacking people, throwing firebombs at people, mugging people. All of those things? They’re crime. They’re violence.

And just while we’re at it: whilst politics in the United Kingdom is a pathetic joke that will ruin lives, at least we have the right to peacefully protest, unlike quite a few I could name. These knobs have taken that right, and twisted the living shit out of it.

You know, much as I would continue to condemn it and find it utterly repugnant, if people stuck to attacking governmental and police premises, at least I could begin to understand their horrendous actions. Let me repeat, though, that that would still be reprehensible. I remember here, during the Troubles, in many instances the Provisional IRA spread their brand of terrorism by targeting the (overwhelmingly Protestant) police and British government buildings/employees, whereas the various loyalist terrorists often sought out Catholic civilians. Neither kind of actions are forgiveable – no terrorism is – because whether you’re an agent of the state or an ordinary person, you’re still someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, brother or sister, friend, colleague, whatever. So this would still be beyond preposterous, let me assure you – but at least there would be a very tenuous and weak attempt at an excuse.

As things stand, that doesn’t apply at all. Local businesses are being burnt to the ground – not just even big economic targets, but small, family traders doing their best just to survive. How would these thuggy little twats feel if poor Maurice Reeves was their grandfather? Don’t they care anything for the historical context of the shop he ran? Or about the fact that they’ve just effectively ruined his family’s livelihood? (Apparently not – silly questions, Pan). Don’t they realise that by burning London to the ground, by opportunistically and cravenly stealing from shops despite the alleged nobility of their cause, they are going to fuck the already fucked economy further? Don’t they realise that this will affect them? If they feel economically disenfranchised now, they’re going to feel a hell of a lot worse if they destroy half of the working premises of the world’s fucking capital. The FTSE hasn’t exactly been stable since this whole fuckstainism kicked off.

Even more disturbing again is the fact that people are being made homeless because of the riots. One woman had to risk her life by jumping from a burning building that would otherwise certainly have ended it. Jesus Christ, people, wake up! If they really care so much about social inclusion, how can it be acceptable to burn normal, civilian people out of their houses? It doesn’t compute in my head as to how that’s anything other than diametrically opposed to what the rioters claim to stand for.

Northern Ireland proves that political violence doesn’t work. When the Troubles ended, it was not because either side had achieved their aims; it was because the community at large had had enough of living in a constant state of superveillance and stoic but omnipresent terror, and we wanted representatives from each ‘side’ to work together for a brighter future for this country – for peace (a grass-roots desire has been largely successful, save for some thankfully isolated incidents). I wonder, if any of the people rioting in England in the last few days were actually alive during the Troubles, did they look upon Northern Ireland as a shithole in those days? Most people external to the province did. And yet that’s what they’re doing to their own towns and areas right now. I suppose they haven’t considered how pathetic they look on the international stage, but whether they care or not, the reality is that international relations is highly important, perhaps even crucial, in modern times, and ergo fucking up the PR of the country isn’t the most intelligent idea in the history of time.

(By the way you might, at this point, very well point out to me that both the current First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland both have ((respectively)) loyalist-related and republican-related convictions to their names ((the former for a loyalist ‘invasion’ of a town over the Eire/NI border, the latter for IRA arms charges)). Yeah. You’re right. But consider this: Peter Robinson’s charge was in the mid-1980s, Martin McGuinness’s in the early ’70s. That was a minimum of 25 years ago. It was only when they renounced violence that they got into respected ((insofar as it can be!)), serious politics).

Please. Stop this madness. People get it – you’re pissed off, and arguably with justification. But this is not the way to make your point, and to be absolutely frank, I’m not convinced that everyone involved in this even has a point (otherwise why mug people and commit acts of theft?). You are ruining beautiful, historical, cultural cities and boroughs. You are ruining ordinary people’s lives. You are ruining your very own communities – how nice will it be for you to live in a burnt-out shell for the next few years, particularly if you already feel that you live in a ghetto?

Someone is going to die if this continues. People started protesting, in part, for the very reason that someone was needlessly killed. Now they’re responding by endangering other lives – and fighting (alleged) brutality with brutality is idiotic, spectacularly counter-intuitive and, yeah, to echo pretty much everyone else – simply bloody criminal.

Stop it, you stupid, selfish philistines.

EDIT: I’ve just heard someone else has died. I don’t know who is responsible, but whatever the case, it shouldn’t have to be this way.

EDIT II: Just heard two teenage girls interviewed on the news. “Don’t you mind that you’re ruining the lives of people in your own communities?” the reporter asked. “No,” this silly little cow replied, “they’re only rich people. They need to see that we can do what we want.”

No, you fucking can’t do what you want. With rights come fucking responsibilities. You are childish and disgusting, regardless of your socio-economic class. Fuck.

Personal Points

  • Worried about Daniel and CVM, both residents of London. I’ve tried to contact them but haven’t heard anything back yet. If either of you are reading this, please fucking contact me!
  • Worried also about Seaneen, Titflasher, Magic Plum, UselessCPN and all my other lovely Twitter/blogging friends, though know from the social networks that they’re safe at present.
  • I’m thinking of all the people in the affected cities and wishing them peace and safety.
  • I hope those organising and participating in these riots are brought to justice. Violence, no matter what ideology it’s in the name of, is completely unreasonable.
  • Social media may have been used to mobilise a lot of this shittery, but it’s also being used for good causes in response to it.
  • I lay awake last night in growing unease until about 5am, listening to distant sirens and constantly-circling overhead helicopters, keeping up-to-date with news of the riots as I did. I awoke after 7 to hear that some minor trouble had kicked off here in NI, though I’ll not be surprised if it gets worse. The hoods on both sides of the divide here are always looking for an excuse.
  • Disclaimer: alleged, own opinion, not reflective of anyone else’s, not a lawyer, not a social commentator, attempted to be balanced because I see the reasons for this but not the actions involved, etc etc. See last night’s look at Anders Breivik and, indeed, the entertainingly-titled ‘Disclaimer‘ page for more information if you really care.

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Anders Breivik: Mad or Bad?

First rant of the week.

I’ve just watched a speculative documentary on the repugnant Anders Breivik, the man responsible for the horrific attacks on Oslo and Utøya Island last month. Before continuing, for the little it’s worth, I’d like to extend my sympathy and solidarity to anyone from Norway reading this. Living in Northern Ireland, I have not been a stranger to terrorism. It is a truly despicable thing, that someone could think politics (or more specifically, in the Norwegian case, reactionary extremist racism) could be worthy of ending even one – never mind multiple – human lives. One of the survivors of the shooting attack on the island, who was attending a summer camp on what the documentary described as “left-wing” politics, stated at the end of the programme that he was sure his ideals rather than Breivik’s would, in the end, be the political victors. It is my fervent hope and belief that this will indeed be the case.

I commend the survivors in the programme for their bravery and determination in the face of such horrible, senseless adversity; I hope that in time all of the survivors can heal from both their physical and psychological injuries; and I send sincere sympathies to the loved ones of those that died.

In the sense of the survivor and eye-witness accounts, the documentary was interesting, informative and very powerful and tragic. I am not the nicest person on this Earth, let’s face it, but even I will never, ever understand how someone can be filled with so much loathing for other cultures and different demographic groups that doing something like this would ever cross their minds.

And herein comes the rant. Inexplicably renowned criminologist David Wilson, a supercilious little man that I’ve come across dozens of times both in an academic context and in my more amateur investigations into criminality, was employed by the film-makers as an ‘expert’ witness on Breivik’s psychology. Can you guess where we’re going with this, readers?

According to Wilson (who, to the best of my knowledge, has no more insider knowledge of Breivik than you or I do), Breivik has a “classic cluster B personality disorder”; Wilson exemplifies this point by highlighting the sensationalism of the attacks, and of Breivik’s apparent at-easeness, even his thrills, with the media frenzy after his arrest. Wilson also contends that Breivik is a psychological splitter (ie. a black and white thinker), presuambly in reference to his “MUSLIMS BAD! LEFT WING BAD! KNIGHTS TEMPLAR GOOD!” kind of thinking. Also, he’s a classic narcissist – look at the “manifesto” and the ridiculous pictures the man posted of himself online the day before he embarked on his awful plan.

I can’t argue with any of that, but neither can I see how it took Wilson years of training and work experience to come to these frankly blindingly obvious conclusions. (Also, he contradicts himself on the histrionic thesis at a couple of points by then pointing out how much of a loner and how reclusive Breivik generally was before this all took place, though to be fair that doesn’t exactly mitigate the gruesome exhibitionism the man demonstrated when he enacted his plans). Given that Wilson fails to explain his hypothesis further (or at least that any further explanation was not shown in the programme), I also don’t get how exhibiting a few (admittedly extreme) traits of cluster B pathology makes the man a “classic” example of same. Yeah, he’s probably a narcissist – but being narcissistic does not necessarily mean having narcissistic personality disorder.

Breivik is certainly a classic example of a cunt, but that is far from always the same thing as being someone with a personality disorder. Look. Maybe he has a one, and maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he has some other form of mental illness (the whole Knights Templar thing sounds vaguely fantastical to me), and maybe he doesn’t. What I object to is the programme’s, and Wilson’s in particular, testimony to these possibilities without any qualification.

OK, so they shouldn’t have to point out that just because one exceptionally extreme (possible) example behaves in this heinous way that the overwhelming majority of people with allegedly similar disorders do not – but let’s be honest here; the public love the morbid sensationalism of reporting on supposed madness, and that – and personality disorders in particular, stigmatised as they often are – is (are) often the perfect scapegoat(s) for outrageous behaviour that decent people have difficulty understanding.

I think, as an unfortunate consequence of things like this, that each examination in the media of a criminal that may or does have a mental health problem should carry a clear disclaimer with it: that people with mental illness are generally no more violent than the general population, and are in fact much more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators of it (if memory serves me, schizophrenics in the community are about seven times more likely to be affected by violent offending than other members of the populace, but I could have the specifics of that wrong). It shouldn’t have to be that way, that we need to qualify every generality, but I’m a pragmatic person. I’d rather that than have everyone outside the mental health community demonising those within it, because the consequences of the latter are potentially devastating.

Anyhow, as far as I can see Breivik was mostly sane anyhow. Null made a very good point on TWIM the other day – no one with a serious and active mental health problem could honestly have spent so much time* meticulously researching and planning a major ‘event’ in the fashion that he apparently did (except, arguably, a sociopath, the more organised version of the psychopath ((depending on which textbook you read))). We just don’t have the concentration, the calculated calmness and, more practically, in all probability we don’t have the economic and physical resources to engage in anything so necessarily complex. That sounds like a cold statement, maybe, but the point is that mentally ill people who kill because of (as opposed to in spite of) their illness tend to do it on impulse (because of a false sense of feeling persecuted or threatened, perhaps) or because they genuinely have no rational conception of what they’re doing (eg. because hallucinations compel them towards the crime).

* Null’s comment suggests that Breivik was planning the operation for nine years, though the documentary claimed it was three. I’ve heard different reports from other sources too, so don’t know what to believe. Either way, it’s a long time and was, by all accounts, a complicated process.

Further, in September 2001, did we start hearing speculation on whether Marwan al-Shehhi, Mohamed Atta, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Ahmed al-Haznawi et al, and – presumably – Osama bin Laden himself, had cluster B personality disorders? Did we spend any significant amount of time discussing whether they had folie à x? No? Didn’t we just accept that they were representing a particularly extreme and reactionary version of Islam (which, I would add, in no way represents the vast majority of people that belong to that faith)?

It’s not an entirely fair comparison, granted, because as far as we know Breivik worked alone – whether or not the two supportive ‘cells’ to which he referred were somehow involved in the attacks is at present unknown, but either way the bomb and the shootings specifically were carried out by him alone. The 11th September attacks were organised by a huge, world-wide cult of extremists.

But therein lies the point. Breivik, by his own delighted admission, is a racist that loathes Islam and wants to wage a war to drive Muslims from (Western) Europe. He claims to be a “cultural Christian”, which I think in effect means that the man is not particularly religious, but supports whatever continuing influence Christianity has on an increasingly secular and culturally inclusive continent. But although Breivik is probably not a religious extremist, he is certainly a political one.

To further exemplify, when the Troubles here were ongoing, we didn’t try to examine whether or not Johnny Adair or Thomas Murphy were personality disordered. Do we debate the state of Nick Griffin’s mental health? Was that the first thing on people’s mind when London was attacked in July 2005? Indeed, is it the lead speculative headline as regards the current ongoing rioting in London?

No. Because we used to be able to, and still can on occasion, accept that some people are just twisted fucking dickheads. People have always committed unspeakable acts in the name of religion, politics or other fucked-up ideologies. Anders Breivik is one such example. He may be mad after a fashion, but he knew what he was doing. So, ultimately, he was just fucking bad. Very, very bad.

RIP to all those that were killed as a result of the attacks on Norway on 22 July 2011.

Disclaimer: author of the above is not a psychologist, not a psychiatrist, not a criminologist, not a political scientist, not a sociologist, doesn’t know Anders Breivik, doesn’t know David Wilson, doesn’t know anyone from the Discovery Channel, could be wrong on all counts, could be wrong on everything she’s ever written, it’s all merely alleged, she’s only speculating just like the programme was, is not a member of any organisation, believes in free speech. Author of the above is a provincial nobody who apparently can’t stop her vociferous gob (fingers) when presented with a topical story and a laptop. Author means no harm in voicing opinions, welcomes sensible and reasoned debate, wishes most people well, though doesn’t wish Anders Breivik well.

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On Sectarian Hatred and Dissidents

Last weekend a young man was murdered in this country. A young policeman. He was 25. He was killed doing the job that, by all accounts, he loved, and that he fervently thought was worthwhile. He was a Catholic, but who gives a flying rat’s arsehole what religion he was? I don’t, and you shouldn’t either. The long and the short of it is that he didn’t deserve to die. Who does, especially in the context of their own innocence?

I wish I could say that Mr Kerr’s murder was an isolated incident – one tragic blemish on an otherwise improving record. I wish I could say that, but if I did, I would be lying. After several years of uncertain but relatively stable peace, out of the blue it seemed to start again in March 2009. It certainly hasn’t been on the hideous scale of decades gone by, but one death in such a ’cause’ is still one death too many. Fuck the union and fuck Irish unification both. Neither are worth people’s deaths.

I grew up in the context of ‘The Troubles‘. Not as much as my mother or even A did, admittedly, but it affected my childhood nevertheless. Every day or two there was something new – a bomb scare, a murder, a patrol. Our bags, even mine as a fucking five year old, were searched as we went into shops. Our cars were searched if we went to the airport or attempted to cross the border into the Republic. People died. Paramiliaties ruled. That was life. We lived with it – we didn’t just tolerate it, we accepted it. We had no other choice.

However, when I was about nine years old, the IRA announced a ceasefire. The majority of the ‘loyalist’ terrorist units promptly followed suit and things finally began to look up; there were still horrible sectarian divisions, but at least we were moving forward, hopefully without the threat of violence. The Good Friday Agreement (GFA), the one solitary domestic issue for which Tony Blair and his cronies deserve credit, seemed to seal the Province’s/Six Counties’ willingness to move on. Peace was what the vast majority of us wanted.

Peace

I remember so well the day that I learnt that the GFA had been passed by referendum, which was voted on both by us here and by folks down south. It was an iconic moment in Northern Irish history…and I was there! Mum, Daniel and I had, for some reason, made the trip over to Belfast to see the Lord Mayor’s Show that year (1998) – and in the middle of it, a Belfast Telegraph seller walked down the (then-predestrianised) road, papers on show for all to see, showing the headline that 78% of us had voted in favour of the Agreement. This was greeted was a massive round of relieved and delighted applause, all-round genuine smiles, and pretty much abject arm-throwing joy from the assembled crowd. I remember feeling a rare but profound pride in this little country – I was overwhelmed and thrilled that we had, finally, put our sectarian politics to one side, and that we’d embraced one of the few things that could possibly bring us from a warring country to a transitional state, even if the peace that came with that was imperfect. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ peace anyway. This was the closest we could get, and it brought tears to my cynical eyes to know that the vast majority of us were willing to support that, rather than stoically continuing to tolerate the sectarian bigotry that could have continued to permeate our everyday lives. I still hold that same sense of pride, almost 13 years later.

I could write a screed on how the GFA was the least worst option, rather than the ideal solution to Northern Ireland’s problems. I could discuss at length how some of the paramilitaries have made the transition from terrorism to ‘ordinary’ crime. I could tell you in droves about how this little country has morphed from largely being a filthy, dangerous shithole into (for the most part) a bright, welcoming, dynamic place to be. But rather than bother saying any of those things, I just want to say this.

To the dissidents that are trying to take us back to the dark days of the ’70s and ’80s. Fuck you. You have no support, beyond the cock-sucking sycophancy you find in your own insular little dens. Even then people probably only allow you to think that they agree with you, because the poor fuckers are scared shitless that you’ll kneecap them or put a bullet in their heads. Everyone else thinks you’re cunts. And you are.

You do not represent the overwhelming majority of people here. You have no mandate. No one fucking likes you – nationalist, unionist or otherwise. You are pathetic – you resort to outdated and sickening means to prove a point that has already been made thousands of times, simply because you find it fucking easier to do so rather than to engage in meaningful, useful and inclusive debate and discussion. It is easier for you to be driven by hatred. It’s in a cause, you say? Fuck you. It’s not. Those who really have a cause have abandoned violent means and tried to embrace other methods of making their points. Not, it’s not in a ’cause’. You do this because you hate. Hate is your fuel.

How dare you romanticise murder and hatred, you flaccid-dicked fuckshafts? Would you like to be Ronan Kerr’s mother tonight? Are you even capable of understanding basic human feeling?

Whatever the case, whatever gruesome brand of sociopathy you come from, we don’t support you. We think you’re cunts. Now do the fucking world a fucking favour and fuck right off.

Random dictum to try to somehow relate this to mental health: when I was writing my series last year on the NI parties’ manifestos on mental health, I read that, owing to Troubles-related traumas, we have a substantially higher rate of depression and PTSD here than in other NHS areas (plus we also have possibly the shittest mental health services compared to said other NHS areas. Go figure).

A and I once met a man who had been in the middle of the Enniskillen bombing in 1987; the poor sod was half-crazed with PTSD-induced psychosis, and he still walked with crutches. I remember a bomb going off outside what was the local copshop when I was a kid. No one died, mercifully, but I remember the wide-eyed, terrorised trauma of one of the old ladies whose rooves had fallen in upon her as she slept. I remember my mother’s horrified face when a policeman came to our door to tell us there was a bomb right across the road, meaning that we had to evacuate our own fucking house right then and there. I remember all this and more, much more, and I was relatively unaffected.

Seriously. Is it worth it? For the sake of some unseen fucking line that is only ever actually visible on a map*?

(* Yeah, I know, I know – the reasons for the conflict, in historical terms, run far deeper than such simplicity. I do know that. But I’m not convinced that our current batch of neighbourhood dissidents share that knowledge. As far as I can see, their only awareness is of how much they hate others).