Leading article

Burning of officers' names on Derry bonfire repugnant

THE language of fury and outrage is arguably overused in commentary on public life.

It is, however, entirely justifiable and appropriate in relation to the condemnation which has met the burning of the names of murdered prison and police officers on a republican bonfire in Derry.

Emblems and symbols closely associated with the unionist and Protestant communities, including Union flags and poppy wreaths, were also set alight in the Bogside area on Wednesday night.

That would have been bad enough; the capacity for bonfires to act as catalysts for wider trouble is so well known that it needs no explaining.

But the inclusion of signs bearing the names of David Black, Adrian Ismay, Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr represents a deeper, and even more sinister, aspect.

All four men were killed by dissident republicans simply because of their jobs, through which they served the entire community.

Mr Black and Mr Ismay were targeted because they were prison officers, while Mr Carroll and Mr Kerr were PSNI officers.

The idea that their deaths ought to be celebrated is repugnant on every level.

Mr Black's son Kyle summed up the feelings of many when he described the burning of the men's names as "absolutely disgusting".

"The people responsible for these vile actions have absolutely nothing to offer our society," he said.

"My dad, along with the other brave men named, served their community with dignity and respect."

Unsurprisingly, given the context, political voices from across the spectrum were unequivocal in their condemnation.

Derry Sinn Féin councillor Patricia Logue said the "hate messages" on the bonfire had "absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with republicanism"; DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it was "both inhumane and pure evil" to cause further hurt and pain to the men's families.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, a Derry assembly member, emphasised the bonfire did not represent the views of the people of the city.

Nonetheless - and it is an uncomfortable truth, which should not be avoided - such actions do reflect the feelings of a minority, however small, whether in Derry or elsewhere, as a banner in Newry last week that taunted the IRA murder of loyalist victims' campaigner Willie Frazer's father demonstrated.

There are many reasons why this minority may feel emboldened at this time, but there is a real danger that dissident republican opposition to power-sharing and the peace process will gain momentum the more Stormont's political paralysis prolongs.

It is yet another reason why politicians must show that politics can work, for everyone in our society.

That has to include our young people. It is a dark tragedy that a discussion that should have long been consigned to the past is happening as thousands of students make plans for their futures after receiving their A-level results.

More than one will be asking whether their plans should include a future in a Northern Ireland unable to completely shake off sectarianism in all its aspects.

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