Was the decision to redeploy Mary McArdle from her job as an advisor by Sinn Fein a routine matter of rotating special advisors? Or was it, as the Minister hinted on UTV last night, Ms McArdle’s own decision to move on.
Whichever, Ann Travers’ warm words of gratitude suggest that whatever the original intention, she is determined to see it as a small act of reconciliation.
There is a lesson worth unpicking here. Whatever is said in public, the Sinn Fein brand remains toxic for a large swathe of society north and south. Much of that toxicity arises from a reflexive determination of some within the party leadership to continually enlarge the shadow of the past at expense of extending the shadow of the future.
As Sam Mc Bride noted on Talk Back today, there was something very particular about this story that gave it a certain potency. The family was middle class, Catholic, they were gunned down outside a church which had already witnessed after Mass killings by loyalists nine years previously.
The honesty, eloquence and human sympathy of Ann Travers’s witness contrasted powerfully with the sheer recklessness of of the crime. It hasn’t let the floodgates open, by any means. But it did open a space (for however brief a time) for victims to be heard, without any sense of jeopardising our hard won peace.
There are many more who’s stories have rarely been told beyond the fading snippets of news cuttings or within the of the Lost Lives book.
Pointing at the basic unfairness of picking out one killing out of the thousands of victims of our Troubles when faced with such honest distress is not enough to make it all go away. And as Fionnuala O’Connor noted in the Irish News, wingeing about stories you don’t like or that might do you some damage won’t work forever either:
“…small wonder here, where practising politics – as compared to making war – is relatively new, on a miniature scale, that every so often a prominent figure will get a rush of ego and have a go at the scribblers or the broadcasters. As though only pure badness could explain why they ask awkward questions of fail to take the word of the politico’s word as gospel.”
To which we might add: a little human generosity goes a very, very long way… A little less energy focusing on the partial wrongs of the past and little more about growing a sustainable future might also help…