This column is not written to blame but to help you understand why anyone would reach a place in their lives where they feel murder is justified. I know, as I have been there. There will be no need for a DNA test to see if there is an evil gene in me (as is now proposed in America). There is. There is in all of us. It is our struggle with it that makes up the story of our lives.
In December, three headlines interested me. The first was the report into the Pat Finucane murder. The second was the murder of twenty seven people in Connecticut, and the third was the fortieth anniversary of the murder of Louis Leonard in Fermanagh.
First the report of the Pat Finucane murder, a man shot in the face in front of his wife and children. That there was collusion in murder between the security forces and Loyalist paramilitaries we have always known - now it is proven. British Government involvement at ministerial level and upwards will never be proven, as no full enquiry will ever be allowed. I wonder why?
The second headline which shocked people was the shooting dead of twenty seven people (twenty of them children) in Connecticut. I was not shocked. I lived in the USA for nearly six years and found that this society was as sick as the one I had left.
In it children pledge their allegiance to their country every morning from the day they start playschool when they say: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands: One Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
Now this may sound wonderful, but let's have a look at what these children are being brainwashed into saying, that they will have allegiance to their country no matter what the government of that country decides to do, giving a blank cheque to those controlling them. A government which believes it so wrong to kill that they will kill you if you commit this crime! This government commits and normalises murder under the guise of capital punishment.
Rather confusing for a child, I know. I too was confused as a child.
I heard (I don't have a TV) that President Obama wept on national TV when he visited this tragic community. The fact is that he represents a government that has murdered nearly three hundred children in Pakistan last year: but these murdered have never warranted his tears.
I have always been confused by this sick logic, because I was one of the others, children in the wrong side of a war who feared the people who wore the uniforms and were in control. Now let's try and figure out why a young man reared in the land of freedom would commit this crime. He had a mother who taught him how to defend himself by teaching him how to kill. A house full of guns, as this is considered a person's right. A government which forced him to pledge allegiance to anything they should decide to do in his name.
Now we have a society who wants to blame everyone and everything, except they themselves, who support this sickness. Lobbyists for gun laws now want mentally distressed people named, shamed and further medicated: as though murder were committed by the mad, when in fact it is the common practice of those who think themselves to be sane. They want more guns on the streets, as they use armed police to protect school children. They are talking about the possibility of arming the teachers and perhaps the primary schoolchildren themselves. Now comes a call for a DNA test to be done on the murderer, to see if there is an evil gene. If they find one, they could then test all pregnant women and abort all children with this gene: just as they do now to children with Downs Syndrome, those most innocent and harmless of potential people, although not on grounds of risk, but of cost to society. Have the Americans just gone crazy? Or is this some awful form of sanity?
Would it not be a lot easier to teach their children the commandment? Thou shall not kill. Why not? Because life, all life, is sacred. But, maybe not, as then their leaders, and our own, would have to practice what they preach.
The final news item that interested me was the fortieth anniversary of Louis Leonard's murder. Not only because he was a neighbour and a friend of the family but because this was the final straw that broke me after the worst year of violence in our history.
I arrived home from holidays on Dec 13th 2012, rested and relaxed. Next day I was irritable and agitated. I woke the next two mornings in the dark, petrified. I couldn't understand it. On Monday I headed to Fermanagh to be confronted with Louis Leonard's brother on every news programme. I listened, we all discussed it. I thought no more about it but there was an unexplainable anger in me. My friend picked me up and I was unable to speak on the journey to visit another friend. The subject of this murder came up again.
My friend said she couldn't remember this incident as she was only three but she then said, 'but I remember the soldiers offering us sweets.' 'The soldiers gave you sweets.' I said shocked.
'No, I never took them,' she replied, 'but I remember babysitting my nephew once when he was about five. I went to find him in the garden. There was a soldier with him. He was eating the sweets and playing with the soldier's gun. I snatched him away thinking, if you had given me your gun when I was five, I would have shot you.' This was a child who saw her first gun when it pointed at her in her cot.
That night I woke after a few hours sleep and knew I had to once again deal with the decision I had made forty years before. The decision that had left a stain on my soul. A stain I needed to face before I could move on.
As a child I made a decision to kill, if necessary, the week Louis Leonard was murdered by Loyalists, when my family and neighbours were still in shock after the dreadful pitchfork murders. A child who had just turned thirteen. A decision made for survival that has lain heavily on my mind since that day. A decision that comes back to haunt me in December every year.
If you were alive in the North in the eighties you will remember the words of Maggie Thatcher: "Murder is murder is murder." This was the time of the hunger strikes and she wanted to explain to the world that the people on hunger strike were criminals and were jailed for murdering others. That they should not get any privileges for political status--even though they were convicted as such.
What is it that turn people into killers? An evil gene? At what point do we cross that line, and why does no one ever tell us the damage it will do to us? As I lay in my friend's house that night I realized that I was not the only child who had crossed this line in our troubles. I also realized that the most damage done to me in the war was not when a policewoman pulled the trigger of a gun at my head, but when I decided that I would do the same thing if necessary. Why would a young man kill his mother then twenty children and seven adults in the school that he attended, dressed in military attire? Then kill himself--in a state that had abolished the death penalty eight months before the incident? How long before this savage action will cause the death penalty to be reinstated? Maybe if Americans took a long hard look at the society they have created they might not need to change any laws. They might have a more difficult change to make, in themselves - something we all need to do, looking inwards instead of outwards to blame others.
What type of society was he brought up in that he could not see the wrong in this? This type of act is not as prevalent on this side of the Atlantic, as there is not such easy access to guns.
Judge Peter Corey noted that the verb 'to collude' is synonymous with the verbs: to conspire, to connive, to collaborate, to plot and to scheme. He further stated: "The verb connive is defined as to deliberately ignore, to overlook, to disregard, to pass over, to take no notice of, to turn a blind eye, to wink, to excuse, to condone, to look the other way, to let something ride....." Maybe as we start the New Year we should all take a look at the society we live in, and the economic, social and military policies of the Governments we support. Maybe we should all take responsibility for the consequences of these policies, remembering Maggie Thatcher words: "Murder is Murder is Murder."