“They have no connection with Sinn Fein; we are moving forward…”

This snippet from yesterday’s Liveline (fourth one down) is a tribute to the skill of Joe Duffy’s subtle handling of a very difficult and traumatic interview (BBC have a transcript here). Not least, is the silence at 50 minutes. It’s worth listening to the whole thing, but Anne Travers controlled testimony of the day her sister Mary and father the resident Magistrate Tom, and mother Joan were shot outside St Brigid’s church on Derryvolgie.

Fair play to Pat Cusick of Cavan Sinn Fein for ringing in and putting himself in the line of fire, but it’s the qualitative nature of that interaction that speaks to one of the ongoing problems of selectively ignoring the past…

It’s socially awkward, and the media seems to want to do anything but go there (no doubt because of the fear of unlocking politically dangerous skeletons from the cupboard). But the loss of perspective on the present that results means that these (profoundly unpolitical) victims have become a forgotten people, like so many ghosts travelling largely unacknowledged in our midst.

As John Dunlop has warned us, “It would be callous for a community to travel into the future and leave grieving people behind.” The future is where all our hopes lie. It’s what makes this tedious peace more bearable than our dramatic (often dramatised) past. And, as Anne Travers tells Duffy, we are all of us who went through those days traumatised to one degree or another. Even, I suspect, her sister’s killers.

As Pete noted some time ago here on Slugger, Michael Longley is the man for these particular moments:

On the one hand, I’m interested in how we avoid tearing one another to pieces. Peace is not that, peace is the absence of that, peace is the absence of war: the opposite of war is custom, customs, and civilization. Civilization is custom and manners and ceremony, the things that Yeats says in “A Prayer for My Daughter.” We have a vocabulary of how to deal with one another and how to behave, a vocabulary of behavior, as well as things to say to one another . . . and out of that come laws and agreed ways of doing things . . . and that in daily life are a bit like form in poetry.

It is, as Gladys has argued, important we remember and talk about the past. That should not gainsay the great progress made by this society over the last 15 years. But some things (like learning to be human again) are as at least as important as the canny pragmatism of post peace process politics.

Now, I do recommend you find somewhere to go and listen to that segment of Joe Duffy’s programme.

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