At the beginning of the week, Roy Garland took up the DUP’s MEP Jim Allister on a press release that only briefly appeared on their website last week and then mysteriously disappeared. It was an all out attack on the Unionist Group’s Drawing a line under the past document. In summation he argues:
Either we begin to live together, share our fears and tears and bind up each other’s wounds or we remain entrapped forever by the sectarian stumbling blocks we inherited. Given this, Alister’s allegation that we don’t make an adequate distinction between innocent victims and perpetrators seems meaningless. Neither victims nor perpetrators are mentioned because the forums were not intended exclusively for them. But after engaging with both ex-paramilitaries and victims, I have discovered the same pain, the same anguish, the same nightmares and sometimes the same symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
It doesn’t matter whether one is victim, perpetrator, loyalist, republican, unionist, nationalist or something else. If one has suffered pain as a result of our conflict the results differ primarily only in degree. If someone joined a paramilitary grouping, perhaps as a young teenager, to defend his or her community and is injured or traumatised, they become a victim in my book – innocence or guilt is in some sense beside the point. Many years ago I naively listened to political/religious sermons of the DUP leadership. There were no restrictions then on dialogue with paramilitaries – we only had to talk with ourselves.
One wonders why the DUP feels it must attack and misrepresent such proposals. One is tempted to assume some of them still don’t want a Fenian about the place. The real danger is that in their mad pursuit of power they have lost all semblance of principle and will back the kind of truth commission sought by Sinn Féin while trying to rule out any probe into their own role and blame others and try to hold them out to dry.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty