No doubt this was a laudable event that gave people a chance to think about the many things that went wrong with our society during the Troubles. The group “Healing Through Remembering” has held similar initiatives for the last 15 years and the day was also marked by a service at St Anne’s Cathedral.
The City Council published an article on its website saying, “The day offers an opportunity to reflect on our own attitudes, on what more we might have done or might still do and to make a personal commitment that such loss should never be allowed to happen again.”
This is a useful exercise and a challenge to us all, but we must be careful not to allow remembering the past to slip into relativism. Everyone in Northern Ireland was not equally to blame for the Troubles, as some of the main perpetrators like to imply.
The violence was overwhelmingly the fault of paramilitary groups, republican and loyalist, and the most prolific murderers were in the IRA.
The biggest party in Belfast City Council insists upon celebrating the crimes of that organisation without shame or sensitivity. At the same time, it relishes the power it has to veto commemorations that mean something to unionists, like the proposal to light up City Hall to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland.
Indeed, the continued success of Sinn Fein is one of the chief obstacles to “healing” the scars of the past.
So let us reflect upon the Troubles. But let us remember them accurately and not fall into the trap of implying that because everyone got hurt, everyone was to blame.