The story of what west Belfast experienced through the Troubles is complex and amazing, but it is filtered at the Feile through a determination to defend the reputation of the IRA, the organisation that brought much of that grief upon the people and to write out of history the pain and horror suffered by those – and we know them – who despise the IRA and whose sleep is still tormented with rage and grief.
One of the most ironic events, from my perspective, is the talk by John Conroy on torture, Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People. This will surely be an incomplete event if no one reflects on how some of their own neighbours in west Belfast became torturers.
There are popular local figures in the bars of west Belfast who have personally shot dozens, perhaps hundreds, of young men in the legs, and there are others who gave the orders who now mutter thoughtfully in the media about the need for human rights principles to govern policing.
Without wanting to scupper the political set-up on the monstrous burden of the past it would be nice to think that these people and those who vote for them have some awareness of these anomalies, but there is no evidence of that in the public discourse on emergence from conflict that we hear every year at the Feile.
As he says earlier in the article
The toxic idea is that those who brought most grief to the area, the republican paramilitaries, are, in fact, an adornment and a credit to the people and the place.
That in itself would be manageable, given that the history books and the memories of the people will preserve diverse accounts of what actually happened. The problem is that the republican vision of an Ireland liberated by murder and sabotage and the intimidation of communities is being maintained by the dissidents.
No one is better placed to undermine the bombers and gunmen of the Real IRA than the retired Provisionals who can say plainly that their project did not work. It was a waste of life and effort and they could own up that, had they their lives to live over again, they would make better use of them.
It’s not as if they haven’t had plenty of opportunities to do so.