Fifty years ago Northern Ireland was in the early phase of three decades of killings that never needed to happen

A letter from Kenny Donaldson:

By Letters
Friday, 28th January 2022, 8:06 am
Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

Over the next 30 years, we will move through a period of 50th anniversaries of unnecessary murders and deaths that occurred during the period that we too casually call ‘The Troubles’,

Recently, we remembered a particularly brutal incident. On December 4 1971, loyalist terrorists bombed McGurk’s Bar, murdering fifteen people and injuring seventeen.

An acquaintance of mine recently told me that that attack lives with him, because, some time after it happened, he was searching through his policeman father’s briefcase to find a pen to do his homework.

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While doing so he told me he came across photos of that atrocity, that had been collected for the inquest which his father was attending. The images he stated were still etched on his memory.

In our discussion he wondered if every young person of that age saw them today, he doubted they’d be shouting ‘up the ‘Ra’ or burning tricolours on bonfires any time soon.

His father was not on duty on the night of the bombing, but the next day, as an RUC inspector, he liaised with the bereaved families as they arrived at the morgue to identify their loved ones. It required him to talk to each of them and assess who would be strong enough to bear the terrible sight.

Each time this happened, his father, like so many other police officers during those times in similar situations, had to revisit the body too.

Like many of his colleagues, he was deeply affected by experiences like this. For the record, this acquaintance told me that the McGurk family were respected by the police and he advised me that Mr McGurk took time to thank the police for their help in searching through the rubble on the night of the blast.

When IVU describes ‘The Troubles’ as unnecessary, it’s based on the view that nothing was achieved through violence that could not otherwise have been achieved by peaceful means. It is important that we commemorate the next 30 years in a constructive way. The process will either heal divisions or deepen them.

Understandably, many people will take a narrow perspective on each death or incident and will remark; look at what was done to my relative, my family or my community. Look at what was done to ‘us’. However, it is vital that we encourage thinking that expresses regret for every death as a tragedy and a waste.

We should remember the context in which murders and other deaths occurred and challenge the ideologies that created the hatreds that fed the terrorist campaign which blighted our society for so long.

So, as the anniversary of each incident approaches, while we commemorate it, we should remain mindful of all those who died; in North Belfast, Fermanagh, Derry/Londonderry, Castlederg, South Armagh, Mid-Ulster, Dublin, Monaghan, Birmingham, Manchester, London and so many other places. All of those who died were ‘us’.

It was all a tragic waste.

And let us all be clear; there was never legitimacy for the use of criminal violence in the furtherance of or defence of a political objective. That truth must prevail.

Kenny Donaldson, Spokesman for Innocent Victims United, South Fermanagh

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