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Key to forgiveness | Opinion

forgiveness on Miscellaneous - In this world of peacocks and poseurs, he stood out by not standing out. Quietly spoken, with a Belfast brogue softened by a childhood in south-east England, he drew little attention to himself. Which was, no doubt, why Patrick Magee could pass unnoticed as he toured the United Kingdom in 1978, planting 16 bombs in various cities and, then again, in 1984, when he blew up Brighton’s Grand Hotel during the Conservative party conference, killing five people.

Among his victims that night was Tory MP Sir Anthony Berry. His daughter Jo was also at the party, sipping wine and chatting to the inquisitive crowd. The body language between them was awkward but not overtly hostile. On first-name terms, they had clearly spent quite a bit of time in each other’s company since they first met in 2000, often at events like this one: last month’s launch of the documentary film, Beyond Right and Wrong, exploring the subject of forgiveness.

Beyond Right and Wrong is a fascinating title — with obvious shades of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil — because it captures something of the complex moral ambivalence many of us feel towards forgiveness.

Magee did 14 years in prison, released in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday agreement. Some continue to feel that this punishment was not enough; that, on some level, he got away with it.

It is a similar uneasy feeling one can have with forgiveness itself, that it undermines the basic logic of proportionality that underpins most moral thinking — that the scales of justice require some sort of balance. Crime needs to be offset by a proportionate amount of punishment. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Forgiveness ignores all of that, which is why it exists beyond right and wrong.

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