Norman Tebbit, the former Tory cabinet minister who was injured in the Brighton bombing while his wife was left permanently paralysed, has clashed with the Anglican Bishop of Leeds after the latter linked the IRA with Christianity. “I would most certainly deny a link,” he wrote in an email to the Rt Rev Nick Baines. “Indeed, I wonder what link you see between those responsible for hundreds upon hundreds of murders (among them five of my personal friends… as well as the crippling of my wife) and Christianity?”

The bishop had written in an exchange of emails with a third party that “nobody in their right mind would deny a link between IS and Islam or between Christianity and the IRA/UDF or between Marxism and the Red Brigades”.

Ah, but hang on, my Lord Bishop, Muslim terrorists shout “Allahu Akbar” when committing acts of carnage. The Red Brigades would raise a clenched fist – a communist salute – but what IRA man ever shouted “In the name of Christ” when he blew up innocent souls? Where was his equivalent vision of 72 virgins in paradise?

There is no link between Christianity and the IRA. It is, as I wrote many years ago in a Catholic newspaper, quite impossible to be a Christian and a terrorist. The link is between a sectarian war and the IRA. It is true that some priests offered succour to the perpetrators of violence. However, there is, as it were, no link between the medical profession and serial murder just because Shipman killed off hundreds of old folk.

Christianity teaches turning the other cheek, peaceful ways and loving thine enemy. The IRA was noted for none of that. It blew up women, children, old folk and animals indiscriminately and without conscience. It maimed and it terrified. It killed shoppers as readily as it tried to kill cabinet ministers. It was an organisation proscribed by the very state it purported to serve and condemned by Pope John Paul II.

Its war was not a holy war but a territorial one. The UDF fought back in defence of its own country rather than of Protestantism. As my priest, Fr Michael Seed, put it to me on one occasion, the conflict was a war between “Catholic atheists and Protestant atheists”. The religious authorities on both sides abjured violence.

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