A certain passage of Paisley’s speech put me in mind of a passage, is worth repeating here:
“We must not allow our justified loathing of the horrors and tragedies of the past to become a barrier to creating a better and more stable future. In looking to that future, we must never forget those who have suffered during the dark period from which we are, please God, emerging. We owe it to them to craft and build the best future possible and ensure there is genuine support for those who are still suffering. With hard work and a commitment to succeed, I believe we can lay the foundation for a better, peaceful and prosperous future for all our people.” .
Turning to the future cannot mean burying the past. As John Dunlop warns us, ‘It would be callous for a community to travel into the future and leave grieving people behind.’88 The greatest tribute to those who have suffered, however, is to build on their sacrifices. Since the peace process began, Northern Ireland has had lavished upon it a degree of attention that dwarfs both the size of its population and the seriousness of its problems. Presidents and prime ministers clear diaries for the leaders of parties representing a few hundred thousand people.
The media follow the peace process with great respect and curiosity. Martial politicians attract attention as they spar for the cameras, stentorian-voiced. But the world’s attention is now moving on and the mundane work of reconstruction must begin. This is not about grandiose gestures, nor sudden cures. It is both more modest and more patient. ‘Universal peace is like the desire for immortality: so difficult to achieve that religions promise immortality not before but after death,’ Umberto Eco warns us. ‘However, a small peace is like the act of a doctor who cures a wound: not a promise of immortality, but at least a way to postpone death.’