A serious milestone was passed yesterday at a service in Coleraine to remember the victims of a 1973 IRA bomb which killed six pensioners.
The Sinn Fein mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens, Brenda Chivers, was present.
She had made clear that as first citizen she would “give due consideration to all invitations” and on this occasion accept.
Some people will say that it is better that someone from Sinn Fein attends such a service rather than stays away. That it is some small move towards reconciliation if they express regret over the deaths, even if they cannot yet condemn them.
But it isn’t any such thing. It is part of a wide ranging and successful republican strategy to legitimise its past terror.
One part of the strategy is to play up British ‘brutality,’ to try to justify a violent response to such alleged state badness.
Another is to say security forces were warned of a bomb and did not act, so as to shift blame to the police or army (some contemptible people give weight to such fabrications).
A further tactic is to try to get memorials to refer to IRA atrocities in a general and neutral way, as if the dead have been the unfortunate victims of a regrettable catastrophe, in which there are no culprits, akin to a natural disaster.
Yet another tactic is to get memorial structures to refer to all victims, rather than specific ones, and so pull IRA perpetrators into the message along with their targets.
And now we see Sinn Fein representatives expressing ‘regret’ at the dead while not condemning the act that led to the deaths, as happened with a Queen’s University academic who would not condemn the murder of Edgar Graham, but merely repeated his regret, as if this was the same thing.
This last category is particularly reprehensible. It is an attempt to make society think that the republican movement is progressive and generous when in truth it stands by its sectarian killings as much as it ever did.
To refuse to condemn such murder is to defend it. To then stand alongside its victims at a memorial is a shameful insult.