At the weekend there were two twitter exchanges that are worth noting for unspoken rules regarding public conduct.
The first occurred on the anniversary of the killings at Loughgall in 1987. Those SAS extra-judicial killings and ambush are viewed very differently across our community spectrum, but at the heart of their legacy is a contest as to the efficacy of the police investigation at the time. A fresh inquest has been ordered into the killings as the previous one was incompatible with human rights law.
Anniversaries for every family are incredibly difficult, when the circumstances were violent and traumatic the pain is heightened. No matter who you are and no matter the circumstances. Two DUP MLAs, Christopher Stalford and Paul Frew took to social media with gloating tweets. Crass and diminishing are the words I will use for how I viewed them. Public representatives have a particular duty to not add to the suffering of those in pain. The response to the tweets objecting to their tone and content came from republicans and those living in republican communities. There was however no general outrage. It is worth thinking about what might have happened had a Sinn Féin MLA tweeted something similar about Warrenpoint or any action where military personnel were killed.
The second exchange happened when Christopher Stalford MLA liked a tweet that had been posted by Lucid Talk which repeated a Carry On film “joke” about domestic violence. Many who replied to the “joke” pointed out that three women have been killed since lockdown as a result of domestic violence . After a lot of pointing to Mr Stalford’s liking of the tweet he apologised, recognising it was in bad taste and that domestic violence is no laughing matter. His decision to apologise may well have come from his own reflection on the matter or was prompted by the wide criticism, much from his South Belfast constituency, directed at him over the course of a day.
I find it interesting that those outraged, and prompted to express same through social media, were silent on the bad taste employed in the previous tweets regarding Loughgall. I suppose the two sets of bad taste standards might written down somewhere for me to know the rules, but I doubt it. But we all know what the double standards are.
On killings it seems it’s OK to attack the memories, grief and trauma of the families of non-state actors, particularly the families of IRA volunteers. That extends to all families affected by state violence even when they were civilians and children, because well, the state did it. If families affected by non-state actors are saying the British state acted in collusion with them, then they are fair game too. It is absolutely not OK to do any of that when the people killed were killed by the IRA or any other republican grouping, especially if said individual was in the employment of the state. Responses or silences to this will generally follow said rules.
In parallel it is OK to hound politicians who like sick jokes about domestic violence and point out that silence is not an option. And it is equally OK to ignore explicitly provocative and hurtful comments about the dead of our conflict by exactly the same representatives.
I don’t make the rules but it’s a funny old world