I wrote the following piece last February and it was carried in several papers. But in light of the events of the last few weeks, I’ve asked Mick to post it here in full on Slugger.
Someone said recently that Ian Paisley was either right in the ideological principles he was promoting in the 1960’s through to the late 2000’s and the methods he was using and wrong now or wrong then and right now. The same could be said of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness.
Gerry Adams and Declan Kearney, as Sinn Fein President and Chairman respectively, have both expressed regret for the past actions of the IRA during the period called the “Troubles” on a number of occasions. Noticeably they have done so on the basis that Sinn Fein needs reconciliation rather than our Society.
While any expression of regret on behalf of a movement that was responsible for over 2000 murders is to be welcomed, its qualified nature, and the selfish motivation behind it, tends to undermine any benefit that might flow from their comments to the victims of their crimes. To say that you regret something but it was justified in many ways simply compounds the hurt caused.
Those murders can be further broken down to 986 members of the security services, 29 loyalist paramilitaries, 23 republican paramilitaries, 434 Protestants and 260 Catholics. In addition as a result of their flawed campaign to unite the people of Ireland some 12,000 members of our community went to prison and ten of them starved themselves to death despite many in their families objecting strongly.
To add to the misery the promotion of the two flawed ideologies of Ireland also resulted in Loyalist paramilitaries murdering some 900 people. 718 were simply Catholics, 156 were from a Protestant background and 13 members of the security services and 25 Republican paramilitaries. Some 8000 went to prison.
The security services were responsible for 349 deaths. (Army 297, RUC 52), 196 of whom were Civilian.
In 1998 the people of this Island voted to respect the constitutional position of Northern Ireland subject to the right to change it through democratic means. It created a basis to promote Northern Ireland so that we all do well in order to prove that a United Ireland would be a place for all the people of this Island and vice versa to prove Northern Ireland’s people are better off as part of the UK, though with great relations with the rest of the people of this Island. The flawed exclusive political ideologies that led to so much tragedy could be replaced by inclusive ones that bring out the best of our people.
Yet a people still trying to come to terms with the consequences of conflict are being ill served by politicians who fail to challenge their own prejudices and selfish pursuit of power to move into the political space that supports and develops a genuinely constructive peace.
My question to Sinn Fein and others who acted outside the law is why should we as a people even consider absolving you of murder in such circumstances? In answering please also bear in mind that peace was not your gift, it is our right, as is an expectation that our politics should be practiced constructively.
Upon receipt of your answer we can then begin a conversation with the others who acted outside the law and then the victims as to the options of how we deal with our Past as it certainly cannot continue to be dealt with in the fragmented way it has been done to date.
As to the border poll can I suggest we park such an idea for 25 years and consider our options then and spend those years uniting the people of Northern Ireland and hence this Island, even if constitutionally they remain apart. Something that with proper leadership from all sides is possible.