La Mon, unionist perceptions and the future of the past

The commemorative service marking the 30th anniversary of the La Mon murders was held on Sunday at Castlereagh Borough Council offices. It was attended by a number of relatives and a few politicians including Iris Robinson who has previously used Parliamentary Privilege to name those allegedly involved in planning the murders. Suzanne Breen’s article here on La Mon is still harrowing to read.This event along with a number of other equally iconic events still informs the views of very many unionists on the republican movement and its leadership. I would submit that the vast majority of unionists whatever their views on the current political arrangements still regard the IRA as sectarian killers, never anything else: this article quoted in the Newsletter sums up such a position quite succinctly. If the republican movement were ever serious about unionist engagement it is specifically with events like these and the other ones which we all know of that they would have to begin. Instead unionists perceive themselves as getting lectures from republicans about “moving forward” along with hero worship of republican “martyrs”, and claims that such “martyrs” were themselves just as much victims as their actual victims. That along with a quick throw away remark about republicans recognising that some of their actions caused hurt to others. Comments which are spectacularly insensitive and inadequate in the face of the events they purport to relate to.

Such unionist irritation is not helped by the attempts by some like the Consultative Group on the Past to describe the troubles as a “war” and the quite threatening (to unionists) suggestions that the “truth” behind the troubles might “surprise” unionists.

Such events and descriptions whether from benign though foolish motives such as Eames Bradley or sinister ones from the republican movement; result in anger and suspicion within the unionist community and simply reduce the chances of reconciliation. No better is, I submit, to be expected from SF. Eames Bradley, however, might yet reconsider the wisdom of their whole project but I fear the Arch Bishop and his cohorts are too blinkered and self important to consider a radically alternative analysis of their mandate: that would be by holding their own council and saying nothing if indeed what they will say would be better left unsaid.