Aileen Quinton’s article about Martin McGuinness (January 25, Is RHI really a bigger scandal than the terrorism of Martin McGuinness and the IRA?) reminds us of the sacrifices many victims of our conflict made, as the “peace process” progressed.
They’ve maintained a constructive approach, despite what happened to them and they’ve shown what I can only describe as tremendous grace.
She’s also right that RHI, while it is an important issue, is nothing like as scandalous as continuing failures to deal equitably with the past, or far greater sums of money wasted on maintaining segregation.
Sinn Fein has used the crisis to continue to demand investigations into the small number of deaths caused by the security forces, while the vast majority of unsolved murders were committed by its armed wing, the IRA.
Meanwhile, the £400 million projected overspend over 20 years on the heat scheme is dwarfed by the £1 billion estimated cost of maintaining a divided society annually, with segregated schools, social housing and other services.
There is no outcry at Stormont about tackling that colossal waste.
The truth is that Martin McGuinness and his party collapsed the Assembly to keep Northern Ireland unstable.
They’ve driven a coach and horses through the peace settlement, and the DUP were stupid enough to fall for it.
Many of our political leaders show little appreciation for the grace that victims like Aileen Quinton have shown and their attitude is a continuing disgrace.
In particular, the two largest parties show little respect for the large number of lives damaged by their two flawed ideologies, exclusive and narrowly defined concepts of Irish nationalism and British unionism.
The phrase ‘parity of esteem’ is often misused in Northern Ireland and, to be clear, destructive attitudes should not be accorded parity of esteem.
Republican and loyalist campaigns of violence that heaped misery on so many do not deserve parity of esteem, when we look back at their effects.
Divisive, exclusive politics do not deserve parity of esteem with constructive politics.
Where identity is concerned, those who hold ideas about Irishness which exclude those of us on the island who are British or ideas about Britishness that refuse to accept any aspect of Irishness can’t lecture others about ‘equality’.
Our main political traditions only deserve parity of esteem when unionism promotes Northern Ireland for all inside the UK, including great relations across the island, and when Irish nationalism seeks to create an inclusive Northern Ireland, within an island of Ireland for all, in order to show that its aspirations could work.
In other words, if political leaders don’t try to make Northern Ireland work for all its people, and promote their constitutional preferences constructively, they’re not contributing anything useful to the ‘peace process’ or to our society.
If Sinn Fein and others showed genuine respect for the principle of consent, focussed on using resources to construct better relationships and worked to strengthen our economy, undoing the damage caused by the past, they’d be worthy of the description ‘peacemakers’.
If that happened, as a society, we could turn to Aileen Quinton and other likes her, and say that we are deeply sorry for what happened, but that, as a people, we are making sure that something similar cannot happen to future generations.
Peacemakers do not collapse power-sharing assemblies.
Trevor Ringland, Holywood