Somali piracy - Consider all the realities

ONE man’s violent revolution to end oppression is another man’s treason.

In the passage of time the goal posts often move and, as was seen at Easter Rising commemorations all around the country this weekend, the victors always write the history.

Maybe we should consider these realities before we utterly condemn the pirates who attacked the colossal freighter, Maersk Alabama, off Somalia in recent days.

Last year, more than 130 such attacks were reported, centred on the Gulf of Aden. Approximately 50 were successful, with millions of euro being extracted in ransom money, most notoriously for a Saudi supertanker carrying €80 million in oil, and a Ukrainian ship transporting 33 tanks.

Undoubtedly, a great majority of the attackers are straightforward criminals and should be treated as such. Their actions represent a threat to life and impose a huge cost on international trade. Shipping insurance has increased tenfold for carriers using these waters.

Then there is the other reality to consider. Somalia as a country is a failed entity. There is no social structure and most of the services we take for granted — clean water, law and order, education, security and health services — simply do not exist.

Consider too the pillage and subsequent collapse of the subsistence fisheries off that blighted country. This has led to the destruction of whole communities and widespread hunger. Had our fisheries been treated in this way, we would have sent out the navy to do what they could. We would not have urged restraint.

Interviewed recently by the BBC World Service, one of the pirate leaders was asked if he feared death. He replied saying that the only thing he feared was his children’s hunger. It would be stupid to imagine all of them Robin Hoods, but some certainly are trying to do no more than sustain families in a world that has abandoned them. They may be a problem, but we are more of the solution than we imagine.


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