A prominent member of the living dead club of 1980s Tories, Norman Tebbit, bleated today that he cannot forgive IRA operative Patrick Magee for the successful mission to detonate a large bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton where many conservative politicians were staying during their party’s conference in 1984. Tebbit has posited his comments as a reaction to the life-changing injuries incurred by his wife, Margaret Tebbit, due to the explosion. By name-checking his wife, Tebbit is attempting to personalise his view. Mrs. Tebbit’s injuries and the deaths of and injuries to others who were not conservative politicians were not the intention of the IRA mission. Indeed, Tebbit and his associates in the conservative government must take much of the blame.
The conservative government of the 1980s did not start the war in Ireland, but it could have taken action to try to find peace. Instead, it deliberately prolonged and further provoked armed conflict by a combination of an abject refusal to engage in any discussion with the IRA and an absurd attempt to criminalise both the IRA and their political supporters. For the Tories, a war in Ireland, as is the case with the war in the Falklands, was an opportunity for political posturing and distraction regardless of the deaths and injuries that are an inevitable consequence of war. The Grand Hotel bombing represented not only a triumph for the IRA operationally, but also an indictment of the policy of a political party that did not care who got hurt as long as they could cling onto power.
The war in Ireland has come to an end. It could have reached an end much sooner if the conservative government had not been determined to use the war as a tool of power. Many Irish people and some British people died in the war. If Tebbit wants to still apportion blame for the deaths and injuries, including his wife’s injuries, then maybe he should look in the mirror.