“Price of peace must not be a psychological amnesia about the past, nor a ‘post- truth rewriting of history…”

I recall our 1st year history teacher telling us in the wake of the bombing of the Abercorn Restaurant in March 1972 how one of her friends had lost a leg. We’d had bombs before, most memorably for me at least, McGurks which went down particularly hard with us.

That year also saw bombs wreak carnage in Aldershot, in Belfast on Bloody Friday and Claudy. In retrospect, there weren’t that many fatal bombings, but their unprecedented scale of human tragedy fed a paranoia that led to 496 fatalities in that Telling Year.

Yet very little of the legacy conversation runs to how we ran from civil rights to what was by any measure a ferocious internecine blood feud. Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Phillip McGarry in the News Letter notes:

It is instructive to note that 30 years ago the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries were routinely described as ‘ maniacs’, ‘crazy’, ‘blood – thirsty’ or ‘psychopaths’. This was nonsense.

Politically motivated violence/terrorism is by definition mindful; it is designed to achieve a political end. Few paramilitaries are mentally ill; indeed the mentally ill would make highly ineffective paramilitaries.

Of Martin McGuinness…

…always a thoughtful, intelligent strategic thinker who understood that every current generation of physical force nationalists is roundly condemned, by people who simultaneously condone the previous generation who did exactly the same things!

Mr McGuinness illustrated this himself by persistently condemning the ‘New IRA’ as ‘criminals’ for attacking police officera and shooting young men in the legs.

I have been a consultant psychiatrist since 1991, for much of that time in West Belfast. I did see a few patients who had suffered ill treatment by the army and police.

However this was overwhelmingly dwarfed by the number I saw who were shot or beaten by republican paramilitaries, which were – in a truly Orwellian phrase – deemed by the two governments to be ‘on ceasefire’. And we think Donald Trump invented ‘alternative facts’!

It is entirely correct that Northern Ireland, prior to 1969 was in many ways a partially sectarian Protestant state; equally the Republic was a partially sectarian Catholic state.

However, no respectable independent body has ever argued nor could argue that the violence of the loyalists and republicans was a legitimate or remotely proportionate response to those wrongs.

It is deeply regrettable that it took so long for that basic concept to be accepted, and it should have us hanging our heads in shame that we had to endure the Abercorn bar, McGurks bar, Enniskillen, the Greysteel massacre and so many other relentless, tawdry killings over so many years.

We should indeed be thankful that large-scale violence is unlikely ever to return. Two cheers for that. But the price must not be a psychological amnesia about the past, nor a ‘’post- truth’ rewriting of history.

Our young people must not be brought up to believe that the violence was other than totally wrong.

To murder human beings and secretly bury the bodies, to cut a man’s throat because he happens to be a Catholic, to use men as human bombs; these are such obviously foul and cruel deeds that no society can function properly without openly acknowledging and dealing with them.

We should indeed be thankful that large-scale violence is unlikely ever to return. Two cheers for that. But the price must not be a psychological amnesia about the past, nor a ‘’post- truth’ rewriting of history.

Indeed. Lest we forget, here’s James Simmons:

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty