Trevor Ringland: Victims should get peace prizes, not those who fuelled conflict

Ian Paisley, left, was elevated to the Lords and Martin McGuinness is lauded as a peacemaker. But they fuelled divison, says Trevor Ringland
Ian Paisley, left, was elevated to the Lords and Martin McGuinness is lauded as a peacemaker. But they fuelled divison, says Trevor Ringland
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The way our peace process in Northern Ireland has been spun, I can understand why Martin McGuinness was nominated for a peace award.

However, it is dangerous for our society to reward those who caused and prolonged the conflict, either directly, or by promoting flawed and divisive ideologies.

They did not deliver peace. They fomented conflict and tragedy, before they were dragged, kicking and screaming in many instances, to a more peaceful position.

We should welcome that change in tactics, but we certainly don’t owe them a debt of gratitude or honours. Yet, a divisive figure like Ian Paisley was elevated to the House of Lords, and he and Martin McGuinness have been lauded as peacemakers throughout the world.

They both arrived at their elevated position having cynically manipulated countless events to their advantage.

While I don’t know whether Paisley felt that what he did in the past was right, McGuinness insists that, while the Troubles were regrettable, the violent campaign he took part in was necessary. Michelle O’Neill needs to clarify her position on this. Is she a new face but practising the same old politics!

More sanguine nationalists, will admit, like a friend whom I often quote, that IRA violence achieved nothing that could not have been achieved through peaceful methods.

I suggest that the families of Frank Hegarty, Patsy Gillespie and all the other innocent victims of so-called politically motivated violence are nominated for an award.

This year, we should recognise the grace shown by so many, who, rather than exercise their grief and anger over the years, have remained restrained or quiet to let the peace process and the political process develop.

Maybe a special award could also be given in honour of those who, throughout the conflict, concentrated on building relationships rather than destroying them. They set the example that should inspire future generations, rather than the leaders of the past who cling to justifications of the violence they caused.

Trevor Ringland, Holywood