Easter was always a celebratory time in my childhood.
It meant my mother could end her sacrifices for Lent and those of us who tried to emulate her stance, often failing miserably but not letting on, were happy to tuck into the chocolate and sweet stuff we had gallantly accumulated and hidden in a box under the bed to ensure the non-Lent observers in the family didn’t find them.
Easter Sunday began to the sound of hidden treats being retrieved at midnight and unwrapped until sleep took over. Just occasionally the sick bag had to come out and heaven help any of us who threw up over the bedclothes.
A visit to church in the morning was inevitable and we liked that because we could dispense with the winter coat and wear our new spring outfits. Even freezing weather couldn’t stop this sartorial change and to this day, I like to have something new to wear at Easter even though I have long forgone the church visit.
Many people see Easter as a time of renewal, a time for moving on, though its origins were centred around a time of great upheaval as Christianity took root.
Lent as we practice it commemorates the 40 days Christ spent in the wilderness followed by his crucifixion at Calgary, followed by the Resurrection.
Two thousand years of history has passed and we should be moving on. Yet we find the world in something of a maelstrom with continuing war in Syria, a Russian President acting like Hitler, an American President who is better known for his philandering than his policies, a Brexit battle which has exposed the dictatorial nature of the EU’s top brass and closer to home intransigence on an epic scale as our two main political parties deliver us closer and closer to direct rule from London.
A poll this week suggests more voters in Great Britain rate leaving the EU as a priority ahead of maintaining the Union with Northern Ireland. This will gladden the heart of Sinn Fein, a party which is showing all the signs of leading by dictatorship.
The run-up to Easter was darkened by the exposure of the terrible abuse by Roman Catholic priest Father Malachy Finnegan in schools in the Newry area, notably St Colman’s College.
One time IRA prisoner and Sinn Fein MLA for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy told his own horrific story of Finnegan’s abuse of him as a 14-year-old at the school, yet many will suggest that the abuse he suffered pales into insignificance against the horrors perpetrated by the republican murderers whom his political party is loathe to criticise. Rather, some of them attend public events commemorating their ‘fallen heroes’.
Conor Murphy survived Finnegan’s abuse yet there are thousands of families today whose loved ones, including children, died at the hands of the IRA and who won’t ever recover from their loss.
We can sympathise with the 14-year-old child Murphy was at the time but it is harder to understand his intransigence as an adult to condemn the violence and murders carried out by the IRA.
We’re moving on to a new political phase now - the battle of the bonfires.
Last year the City Council was granted a High Court injunction preventing more materials being added to bonfires at four sites in the east of city, an effort which failed miserably due to intimidation. While the bonfire is deeply ingrained in Protestant/loyalist culture it’s hard to understand the mind-set that they should get bigger every year putting property and even people at risk. Eleventh night celebrations are even more controversial. Even before this Easter weekend I saw signs up asking for contributions of wood for Twelfth bonfires. Another report from the city council on the management of bonfires is due out this weekend but that caused a row as only the larger parties of the council got access to its results. So we can expect our revered Easter to be disrupted by political divisions about self-regulation over bonfires versus creating ‘community conversations’ about how high, where and what should be allowed to burn when all we want to do is celebrate the end of Lent by eating Easter eggs until we’re sick, attending family barbecues, visiting relatives, or dressing up in that new summer church-going outfit.