Thursday, 17 April 2014


Much is being made of the fact that Martin McGuiness, an ex commander of the terrorist organisation the IRA, was invited to a banquet (and accepted) by Queen Elisabeth. 20 years ago he was leading an organisation that was fighting and killing British troops. The thought, then, that he would sit at the same table as Her Majesty was literally unthinkable. Yet there he was tucking into a steak and chips with all the dignitaries in the land, and of course, the Irish President who was the guest of honour.

McGuiness has transformed himself into an amiable, affable, yet very sharp politician. You would think that two politicians like McGuiness and Ian Paisley who were politically diametrically opposed could never work together without serious repercussions and yet they did. Not only did they work together but they sat together and were often seen chatting and having a laugh together. Some people found that galling and called them hypocrites. However, what was the alternative? Northern Ireland had gone through thirty years of internecine warfare where republicans and Catholics had fought Protestants and loyalists. The people were tired and wanted peace but how do you get that without talking. Some hotheads on both sides swore never to talk and still try and carry the fight on. The more enlightened ones turned themselves into 'peace' politicians and found that when they talked to each other they had things in common and got on.

This is not the first time, by a long shot, that 'terrorists' have rehabilitated themselves and end up sitting in the highest seats of power. Go back to the 50s in Kenya. The Mau Mau were terrorists, they wanted in dependence from Britain and their leader was Jomo Kenyatta. When captured there were many in the administration who would have liked to hang him. He was tried and convicted of being a member of the Mau Mau and imprisoned for 7 years. He was then sent into exile in a remote part of Kenya till his release by popular demand in August 1961. The rest is history. He became prime minister, then President of an independent Kenya.

Archbishop Makarios was another 'terrorist sympathiser' although he wasn't the actual leader of EOKA the Greek Cypriot terrorist organisation, that was George Grivas. Makarios knew and had contact with Grivas and was sympathetic to the group but it was difficult to prove. So he was arrested on his way out of Cyprus and sent into exile on Mahe Island, near the Seychelles. He was only kept there for one year and then released but banned from returning to Cyprus. He based himself in Greece and in 1959 was elected president of an independent Cyprus.

There are countless others who have made it to the top from murky beginnings, Mugabe, Arafat, Begin, and even the saintly Mandela come to mind. All of whom have been classed as terrorists at one time or another and yet have become leaders and dined at the top tables in Europe and the rest of the world.

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