Can you imagine Guy Fawkes being taken into the Grand Committee Room of Parliament and asked to share a ‘forgiveness’ platform with King James I?
Of course, we already have terrorists in Parliament. And since Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have been brought into government, complete with tax-payer funded, unrestricted access to the Palace of Westminster, there seems no reason at all to bar Patrick Magee, the ‘Brighton Bomber’, who will enter Parliament at 6.30pm today.
The occasion marks the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Brighton Grand Hotel during the Conservative Party Conference in 1984. There are many MPs and peers who find his presence repugnant: he was, after all, the most successful bomber to attempt to assassinate the government since Guy Fawkes’ abortive attempt four hundred years ago. Mr Magee plotted, planned and planted the bomb in the hope if murdering Margaret Thatcher and destroying the entire British Cabinet. And he came very close.
But while the traitor Guy Fawkes is still incinerated annually on the top of a thousand bonfires, Patrick (or ‘Pat’) Magee is being fêted at the expense of the taxpayer instead of being detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure.
Cranmer might view this differently if Mr Magee were repentant. For forgiveness is a divine command, and to restrict its flow is to limit mercy. But Mr Magee is not remotely repentant. Indeed, he says he ‘stands by his actions
’ though he ‘regrets the attack’.
Perhaps he should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this pseudo-legitimising paradoxical verbiage and oxymoronic incongruity.
One cannot regret what one stands by. If an action is mistaken, it must be amended: only a just and right action can be defended. To legitimise is to negate regret. Mr Magee still argues that he ‘felt trapped’ because they were ‘the underdogs’ who ‘had no other way’.
The bomb was wholly justifiable because there was no alternative.
This is not the reasoning of someone who ‘regrets’.
Indeed, it is a consequence of liberating a man who should have served his entire natural life (eight life sentences) incarcerated for treason, if not been sent to the gallows. For what is the attempted assassination of Her Majesty’s Government if it be not treason?
But the Good Friday Agreement dispensed with the need for retribution. Indeed, treason is no longer a capital offence. Patrick Magee (or ‘Pat’) was released after a mere 14 years (less than three years for each death, or four months for each injury and death), without the need for regret, atonement, reparation or justice for the injured and bereaved. There was a crass quid pro quo: we’ll stop bombing you if you free our fellow freedom fighters. It was a very good Friday agreement indeed for the likes of Patrick Magee.
And so today he enters Westminster as a guest of The Forgiveness Project
and the ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues’ (the what
?). He will address an audience along with Jo Berry, the daughter of the MP Sir Anthony Berry who was killed in the blast. Apparently ‘hearing the story of “the enemy”’ is intrinsic to the project’s mission.
Ms Berry’s participation in this event is, of course, a matter for her. To share a platform with the man who murdered your father must be difficult indeed. Even more so when the murderer shows no remorse, and when they are giving the pulpit of the Grand Committee Room – in which Sir Anthony had frequently spoken – to an assassin who still argues that he ‘had no other way’.
Tell that to Lord Wakeham, whose wife was killed in the attack.
Tell that to Lord Tebbit, whose wife was left paralysed for life.
How can a platform for forgiveness even be considered when it is not forgiveness which is being sought and the event offends those who have been most hurt? Forgiveness is concerned with repentance, contrition and regret. And that is not on offer.
The ‘underdogs’ who ‘had no other way’ certainly had the way that is now being pursued, for this is about reconciliation and participation in the legitimate processes of government. Patrick Magee had the choice of participating in democracy or blowing people to bits. He chose the latter because he could not be bothered to talk, negotiate or vote. And when he did vote, it was easier to terrorise than to abide by the outcome.
And now he has become a celebrity terrorist, lauded and applauded by his employer ‘The Forgiveness Project’. He is next to be seen on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ or ‘Dancing on Ice’.
A few years ago, the BBC invited Lord Tebbit take part in Radio 4’s ‘The Reunion’ alongside Mr Magee. Lord Tebbit wrote in The Daily Telegraph: ‘Now it seems we are to be encouraged not merely to accept Mr Magee as a respectable human but to admire and — most sickeningly of all — to like him.” In another article published in The Financial Times earlier this year, Lord Tebbit declared that this kind of appeasement was symptomatic of the weakness and lack of resolve in modern British society.
To the question of whether he would like to meet Mr Magee and his accomplices he replied: “Yes, I would like to bump into them. If I was driving a heavy truck.”
For Lord Tebbit, forgiveness is a conditional social contract — it is given when it is deserved. And he says: “I can’t forgive someone who justifies what he did.”
The Forgiveness Project is a cultural counterfeit consistent with the zeitgeist. It is not quite ‘forgive and forget’, but it is about excusing and ‘fair-mindedness’, somehow minimising the hurt by ‘putting it into perspective’, or the pursuit of some ‘blind trust’ in the hope of a promise yet to be fulfilled.
Lord Tebbit said that he would share a platform with Patrick Magee ‘when Magee could repent, atone for his sins and help to indict and convict those who employed him’. He wrote of The Freedom Project that it ‘excuses, rewards and encourages murder’.
For the Christian, there must be forgiveness, but genuine forgiveness is not an emotion and it does not negate the rawness of hurt or loss. God did not excuse sin by considering that there may be extenuating circumstances. And neither does God meet our defiance by denying His hurt: the pain was traumatic, the agony almost unbearable.
Forgiveness is the outworking of the love of God. We must pray that God would forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We are commanded to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. St Paul makes it clear that personal vengeance is inconsistent with loving our enemies.
Yet he also says:Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
If the state had fulfilled its obligations, justice would have been done and be seen to have been done. And Patrick Magee would not now be walking around freely preaching 'forgiveness' in the heart of the institution he once tried to destroy.