Peter Popham: Magistrates' murders backfired on Mob

Analysis

The killing of the fearless Sicilian magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino is the great watershed in relations between the Italian state and Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mob.

Before those killings, accommodation was the rule. The Mafia was Italy's secret vice: it kept Sicily in order, doled out rough justice and provided safe Sicilian seats to politicians cunning and ruthless enough to do deals with them. Falcone and Borsellino were given the task of bringing the Mafia to book and ending Mob rule in the island, and unlike their predecessors they went about it vigorously.

They organised the first mass trials of Mafiosi, and cajoled the government into giving convicted gangsters uniquely tough conditions in jail to prevent them continuing to run the gangs from inside. The Mafia had a beginning, Falcone argued, so it must also have an end.

Infuriated by the challenge, the Mafia began turning on its former friends in the political world. First to die was the former mayor of Palermo, Salvo Lima, Giulio Andreotti's key contact in the Mob. Falcone and Borsellino were murdered months later.

But now the man who killed Falcone has testified in court in Rome that, even after Lima's death, the politicians had not given up hope of sweet-talking the Mafia into another cosy arrangement.

The testimony of supergrasses is often suspect, but if an authority as important as Antonio Ingroia, a top anti-Mafia magistrate in Palermo, gives credit to what he says, it is to be taken seriously. In their last months, both Falcone and Borsellino felt that the political establishment had hung them out to dry. "In Sicily," Falcone said, "the Mafia kills the servants of the state that the state has not been able to protect." He saw it coming. Now we know chillingly that he was right, and that he had been abandoned. The survival of the political establishment was considered to be far more important than the breaking of the Mafia.

Months later both men were dead and for the first time the ordinary people of Palermo took to the streets in furious protest. This was partly out of sympathy for the dead men and their families, and partly because the autostrada bombing could easily have wiped out innocent Sicilians along with the magistrates (one reason the Mafia had been tolerated up to that point was because they only killed their own kind). With a start, the Italian state woke up: finally it saw that its very existence was at stake. A new age was under way.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam