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.