The remembrance too many in Ireland want to forget

Alasdair McDonnell MP, MLA writing in the current issue of the Church of Ireland Gazette shines a light on the memory of the disappeared and asks why there are still those prepared to give some legitimacy to their murders.

The month of November celebrates All Souls day and the end of the church’s liturgical year. Christians from ancient times in Ireland have always remembered and revered the dead.
The belief that prayers are a positive force for the departed is emphasised by the blessing of grave ceremonies. It goes to the very core of our shared Christianity.
In November the Armistice Day ceremonies honour the millions of young men who died in the cold, muddy and horror filled trenches of the First World War.
It is impossible not to draw the correlation between those images of suffering in the fields of Picardy and the wind swept Irish bogs that continue to hold such sad secrets surrounding the Disappeared.
In this special month of November there still remains a challenge for all Christians living on this island.
It is to ensure that actions, not politically crafted statements, are the tools used to find the remaining Disappeared.
Until that happens we will never be able to legitimately bury the past.

Full text below foldIn recent days the grim images of forensic personnel sifting through the sludge of a lonely stretch of Irish bog land for the body of a young man abducted and murdered by members of a terrorist organisation have appeared on our television screens.
November is a time in the Christian calendar when we pay particular reverence to the dead.
Exactly a year ago year ago the spotlight of the search teams was focused on finding the skeletal remains of Danny McIlhone. This November the same expertise is being used to try and return the remains of Gerry Evans to his family.
That such events continue to be chronicled is an indictment of a society that claims to be one built around essentially Christian values.
The apologists that tried to find validation in the summary executions of individuals such as Danny McIlhone and Gerry Evans and others used words that were shamefully hollow.
They argued that in a war situation there is no room for qualified sentiment.
There are still those that are prepared to give legitimacy to that cruel interpretation of a grotesquely skewed morality.
More than three decades on insincere words of partial contrition continue to be uttered by the political heirs of the original gunmen.
Many would assert that there continues to be a shared relationship between the trigger puller and the expensively tailored suit. The words spoken are carefully chosen. But it is impossible to hide the stench of cordite or to wash away the bloodstains.
The sickening stench of hypocrisy still permeates our politics.
On November 3 2007 (check date) the President of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, spoke in the Northern Ireland Assembly on The Disappeared.
He acknowledged the grave injustice inflicted on the families whose loved ones had been abducted, killed and left disappeared by the IRA.
However in a classic example of doublespeak credit was given to that same organisation in the continuing search for those still missing.
The objective said the Sinn Fein President, was that the Disappeared would be given Christian burials.
Why however did it need to take all that time for those words to be spoken? Remember that when those in Sinn Fein speak on the issues of political development they do so with the authority of arbitrary power.
Why did it take the Republican movement so long to admit its guilt when it could have moved positively many, many years ago?
Its lack of moral courage has left many hearts to be racked with needless pain. It has meant that many have gone to meet their God without knowing the truth surrounding the death and final resting place of their loved ones?
All they had to hold on to were images of the past. There was no hope of extending those memories. That had been extinguished by the pulling of a trigger.
The only tangible legacy is the grainy shadows captured at a family function. They are faces frozen in time in the 1970s and 80s.
They were singled out to be the victims of faceless men and their lives were viciously and cruelly extinguished.
There was no judge or jury to hear their last words. There was no legal defence allowed to be mounted on their behalf. All that we can be certain is that Gerry Evans, like the rest of the Disappeared died a terrifying death before being dumped in a lonely place.
Gerry Evans had nobody to cradle and comfort him in his final moments.
He died at the hands of individuals who believed they were empowered by the paragraphs of a gunman’s rulebook.
For most people the Disappeared is an issue that is well below the consciousness level. It is now part of a receding history.
Of course it is right, in certain circumstances, not to dwell on the negatives of the past. However unless we come to terms with the implications of our past it is impossible to develop a positive future.
The families of the Disappeared have to try on a daily basis to cope with their awful ordeal.
As a Christian community we have failed those families by not demanding and insisting on answers being given in the context of their pain.
The daily torment that is their unique inheritance from an obscene distortion of the Republican ethos will always be their terrible burden.
No careful drip feed choreography of information engineered to suit the latest chapter in the political process can erase their pain.
The month of November celebrates All Souls day and the end of the church’s liturgical year. Christians from ancient times in Ireland have always remembered and revered the dead.
The belief that prayers are a positive force for the departed is emphasised by the blessing of grave ceremonies. It goes to the very core of our shared Christianity.
In November the Armistice Day ceremonies honour the millions of young men who died in the cold, muddy and horror filled trenches of the First World War.
It is impossible not to draw the correlation between those images of suffering in the fields of Picardy and the wind swept Irish bogs that continue to hold such sad secrets surrounding the Disappeared.
In this special month of November there still remains a challenge for all Christians living on this island.
It is to ensure that actions, not politically crafted statements, are the tools used to find the remaining Disappeared.
Until that happens we will never be able to legitimately bury the past.

  • fin

    Conall, the SDLP put the boot into the deal between HMG and SF to draw a line under the OTRs and any investigations into crimes by the BA & RUC. The SDLP said they intended to hold the BA to account.

    Recently a campaign group met with MEPs in Brussels to highlight the Ballymurphy killings, yet the SDLP appear to have no interest in this or other crimes carried out by the BA,

    As a potential SDLP MLA can you comment on your partys total lack of concern for nationalists who have suffered at the hands of the BA, yet seem obsessed with the crimes of the IRA?

    Is this business as usual or are you ramping up for a deal with the UUP

  • John O’Connell

    He died at the hands of individuals who believed they were empowered by the paragraphs of a gunman’s rulebook.

    Nice wording. Of course they’re still on the go, and when the true story comes out about the dissidents you’ll find that they are still waging war with the gunman’s rulebook, just using the dissidents as puppets.

  • Fin

    Not true. The SDLP has campaigned hard for the Ballymurphy families and their representatives have spoken several times on SDLP platforms. The party has a long an credible record of tackiling the British Gov over BA actions.

  • JoMax

    Truth Seeker

    Quite apart from your inane comments, do you realise that you are quite illiterate?

  • fin

    Conall, ‘fraid I’d have to disagree with you regarding the SDLP and the Ballymurphy Massacre and tackling state violence in general.

    At the time of the OTR Act the SDLP specifically said they stopped it so that the BA and RUC would not escape justice, once the act was stopped the SDLP went quiet, even during HMGs recent belated mumbled apology over Aidan McAnespie’s murder.

    In fact apart from Alex Attwood the silence is deafening. Look at the number of results returned and the headlines on basic Google searches for:

    SDLP ‘the disappeared’
    SDLP Raymond McCord
    SDLP aidan mcanespie
    SDLP ‘Ballymurphy Massacre,
    SDLP ‘British Army’

  • Henry V111

    The CoI Gazette is a fascist anti Irish sectarian rag and has been for decades. Give Rome back its property.

  • John O’Connell

    Fin

    Let’s be honest about state violence. Throughout the Troubles it was regarded as a difficult issue while soldiers where being carried away in body bags.

    It is still a difficult issue for a Nationalist politician to try to resolve because he has to associate with the republican view that the Brits are the problem.

    The Brits are not the problem, Fin. Extreme masculine violence is the problem with its attempt to corral people into corners so that it can justify its own pathetic existence as the saviours of our society.

    I would suggest that those who have guns in this society, including the Brits, are the problem and until these people change their ways decent people are going to have to defer to the nuts and the maniacs in the long grass.

    Otherwise, somebody’s going to come along, sooner or later, and really test the metal of this society by provoking a Bosnia or a Rwanda. That would be to many justice for the continued letting down of the rest of the world of a society that tells us all the an eye for an eye is the way forward.

  • Vulture

    Meanwhile, while McDonnell and SDLP take the eye of the ball regarding grass root growth and write high fallooting newspaper articles, FF are launching in yet another county in the North this weekend, on Sunday in Enniskillen for the Fermanagh Fianna Fail Forum. FF probably won’t get their act together to challenge a genuinely republican party (Sinn Fein) by 2011, but the SDLP should be taking a leaf out of the FF book grass roots wise if they want to actually be relevant on the streets rather than on the pages of print.

  • bangordub

    Surely all politics is local.
    I contacted SDLP about a local issue 3 months ago.
    No answer as of yet.
    Fianna fail understand that.
    Conall?

  • John O’Connell

    Vulture

    Fianna Fail have nothing to offer the North but an Irish name. In that respect they will challenge for SF voters rather than SDLP voters. On Hearts and Minds tonight SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley said that the FF personnel were all ex-Sinn Fein. So shouldn’t you be annoying them about this rather than pick on what you may think is the softer option?

  • Bangordub.

    Maybe if you offered a real email address people could get back to you with whatever query you had. Feel free to send me an email though. Mine is real!

  • file

    Dear Alastair
    In ancient times in Ireland, there were no Christians. Samhain was, and still is, a pagan feast, a time when the two worlds (the world of the dead and the world of the living) are believed to come close together.
    As for the idea that the IRA took careful records of where they left bodies in the middle of the night, and are now withholding this information, wise up a bit. it would be politically beneficial to Sinn Féin to bury this issue; the fact that it can’t is due to the circumstances in which the murders were committed, not due to political games.