After the many eulogies to former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness last week I wondered if I had got the meaning of the word correct, so I looked it up in my trusty Collins English Dictionary.
It told me that it means ‘high praise or commendation’ and ‘a formal speech or piece of writing praising a person or thing, especially a person who has recently died’.
Now, we all know this former high ranking, IRA commander, later politician hasn’t died but he is ill and we have to presume that is why he has retired.
The most effusive eulogies to him came from the most surprising source, the Paisley family with son Ian and his mother speaking generously of his role as a politician. The flow of praise lasted for days with very little reference to his former life as an active man of war.
Much was made of his efforts for peace, his handshake with the Queen, his jokey nature and his common touch. A fine person by all accounts. Time helps us forget, of course, and that’s a good thing otherwise we would never be able to move on.
Yet we have endless numbers of people emotionally crippled by the IRA’s terrorist campaign who are constantly told to forgive and forget. Their voices cry in the wilderness. Where are the eulogies to these people? I’ve never once heard Martin McGuinness or his ilk apologise to them. Politicians listen but quickly move on to the next item on their agenda.
A headline in the News Letter this week drew my attention: Is RHI really a bigger scandal than the terrorism of Martin McGuinness and the IRA?
The article below it was written by Aileen Quinton whose mother Alberta 72, was murdered in the 1987 atrocity at Enniskillen. No one has ever been charged with her massacre by the IRA that day.
Twenty years on Aileen writes that she finds “the unrelenting auld guff written about Martin McGuinness nauseating’’.
Like all the rest of us she would like to know “how does an administration which includes unrepentant terrorists, get brought down by RHI’’.
The RHI scandal, she writes, has rightly created a furore and is a serious matter. “However even if we ignore the murders and maimings, what was and is the cost to the public purse of McGuinness and his ilk?” Her father taught her not to hate and in this vein she would “wish McGuinness and all mankind the best’’ but she explains that due to his lack of repentance “the priority of ‘the best’ means “that they cease to be evil, not that their health improves’’.
Aileen, I’m certain, speaks for the many – and I believe that to be very many – who are confused by the eulogies and good wishes for recovery for the former Deputy First Minister. She accuses him of not having made “much of a journey’’ or “decommissioned his mindset in terms of justifying the slaughter his IRA was involved in’’.
The answer is that we live in a democratic country where one’s past is no barrier to achievement. Many politicians throughout the world were former terrorists. The British attitude is that peace can only be achieved by talking to our enemies. It’s a fact that the IRA knew it could not achieve its goals militarily so eventually it took up the offer of talks with the British – initially those offers were clandestine – but the result was a peace of a kind.
So Aileen Quinton’s question, is RHI really a bigger scandal then the terrorism of McGuinness and the IRA is an interesting one. To many of us it isn’t, of course, rather it is a diversionary tactic and a timely one for the ailing former Deputy First Minister.