In 2013 there needs to be a universal recognition of the futility of violence, says KENNY DONALDSON
OUR organisation is absolutely disgusted (as I am as a south Armagh native) by the theft of a memorial plaque to south Armagh man Willie Clarke, who was assassinated by the IRA some 35 years ago.
In the lead-up to Christmas it is quite despicable that people who, under the banner of ‘Irish republicanism’, could stoop so low.
There is quite clearly no Christianity within their homes; rather they are consumed with hate and rank sectarianism.
Across Northern Ireland illegal memorials have been erected to terrorists who reaped death and misery upon our people – Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter – yet how many of these memorials are ever attacked? Despite the revulsion innocent victims have at seeing these memorials plotted across our landscape (often in areas of shared, neutral space) they nevertheless do not destroy, vandalise or thieve something reverencing the dead. The Christianity which is present within the homes and lives of the innocent victims of south Armagh and across Northern Ireland means that there is a respect for the dead, irrespective of their past actions or how they died.
The theft of this modest, family memorial which had been erected near Mullaghhbawn, south Armagh, proves the absolute lack of tolerance that some have towards the dead. What has been done is a desecration of the memory and decency of a family man who was murdered for no other reason than for being a Protestant.
A very striking comment was carried in your edition of Monday, December 24, which reveals the theft having occurred. Paddy O’Hanlon, an SDLP representative at the time of Willie Clarke’s murder, had stated: “He was murdered by the IRA because he was a Protestant as well as being a man who worked for a living.
“The perpetrators of this foul deed, like their compatriots in the UVF, would crucify Christ if he appeared in the north of Ireland this week and the leadership of the IRA would show no hesitation in supplying the nails.”
Thirty-five years on and there are so-called democratic politicians who would not use such unambiguous language to describe the actions of terrorists. One wonders, have some people travelled at all or do they instead remain rooted in a time warp of bigotry and sectarianism?
Those who involved themselves in paramilitary organisations and actually pulled triggers, detonated bombs or were spotters, getaway drivers, fundraisers etc, or indeed those who supported such activities, need to understand how morally bankrupt and futile these activities were. They achieved absolutely nothing except to destroy families and communities. But the resilience of our people won out – the spirit of decency and humanity, however tested, refused to be broken.
It is essential that lessons are learnt in a society such as Northern Ireland which is trying to deal with its past. All must understand (and for some this will be belated) that terrorism is not justified, it was never justified and there are no circumstances where the act of murder can be considered acceptable – no political cause can ever justify such actions.
In 2013 there needs to be a universal recognition of the futility of violence. Within family homes where there has been a history of insurrectionism and paramilitarism, grandparents and parents need to sit down with their young people and acknowledge the crimes and mistakes that they made and they must do everything possible to dissuade their young people from doing what they did to their neighbours – Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter.
Kenny Donaldson is Director of Services of the South East Fermanagh Foundation