North's wrongs could have been addressed through democratic means
Barry McElduff’s callous mockery of the Kingsmills victims has unwittingly highlighted a question that goes to the very heart of our future in Northern Ireland and across this island. Will we focus on building relationships and uniting people, or will we perpetuate the hatreds and mistakes of the past, deepening our divisions instead?
Kingsmills was the most terrible of crimes and it was, despite their denial, carried out by the IRA. It was one of many atrocities carried out by that movement, whose position is that while it regrets the tragedies and hurt that it caused, it feels its actions were necessary and justified.
By that logic, as a society, we would need to accept that the actions of loyalist paramilitaries and members of the police and army who acted outside the law were also defensible. Our position on this fundamental point will determine the course of our future and whether there is potential for more conflict, despite the hard compromises so many from across our society have made.
When I asked the late Maurice Hayes about his view of republican violence, he told me: “Trevor, there was nothing achieved through violence that could not otherwise have been achieved through peaceful means.” That was a sound principle that applies equally to the actions of loyalists and any actions of members of the police and army that were outside the law.
There were many things wrong with Northern Ireland, as there were in most societies, but they could have been addressed through normal democratic means.
Violence was never going to unite constitutionally the people of Ireland, or make nationalists feel more welcome in Northern Ireland. Nor would the methods have been justified, even if they had brought their political aims closer.
Twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement it’s surely time to start rebuilding the relationships on this island that we got so badly wrong in the past. Could we really have got them more wrong?
The crucial foundation for reconciling our society is a shared recognition that criminal violence was always unnecessary, wrong and unjustified, from wherever it came, and a clear commitment that it must never be used again. On that basis, we can have a genuine, full and open discussion about what is possible to support the construction of good relationships across Ireland.
In such an environment we can really look at how we deal with the crimes of the past, recognising the context in which they were carried out and addressing the deeply flawed leadership that led so many people into conflict.
Then, at last, we will be able to say with sincerity to the families of Kingsmills and so many others that what happened to you will never happen again.
Holywood, Co Down
Malaise and pressures put health service at risk
The BBC’s recent interview of a director of medicine from one of Northern Ireland’s five health trusts about the latest health service crisis was telling.
There are five of these directors. Their salaries and pensions have been well documented by The Irish News which sees a matter of considerable public interest involved.
The question arises: should highly skilled doctors be diverted from medicine to become bureaucrats?
While not the core health service issue, it is symptomatic of a cultural shift reflected in managerial and other values.
The British National Health Service (NHS) formerly trained huge numbers of doctors and nurses. The north like other NHS regions no longer trains enough people. It imports a lot of staff from the European Union (EU) and the Third World. The excessive use of agency staff represents partial privatisation. This inflates costs while undermining patient outcomes. Local political paralysis is also harming the health service. Escalating stresses arising from austerity and other ideological factors as well as spiralling demand is putting the NHS in jeopardy.
New public service solutions are urgently required. Creating a single more streamline health trust for this region would be a good start along with training and retaining more staff. Closer collaboration and possibly harmonisation with Scotland’s and the Republic’s health systems is also something to be considered.
BERNARD L CONLON
Clare Bailey is missing the point
Clare Bailey’s incredulity at the Catholic Primate’s new year statement (January 11) concerning the reality of abortion is in itself incredible. She next views the declaration of Pope Gregory XIV’s that abortion before implantation wasn’t a crime, misses the fact that science then was not as developed as that of the time of Pope Pius IX, when a more accurate understanding could be achieved. Indeed, from the declaration of St Elizabeth’s to the truth of Christ’s divine and human nature (Lk 1:42-44) and the 200 AD documents of the Didache and The Epistle of Barnabas, which confirmed severe ecclesiastical sanctions to abortion advocates, shows a consistency that continues down to the 21st century.
As science confirmed and aided the Church’s understanding of life, we now have a fuller understanding to the reality of the humanity of the pre-born infant and at the same time, is an indictment to the views of Clare Bailey’s and the Green Party. In that, is it not prophetic that the 1968 letter of Bl.Paul VI foretold that contraception and its ally abortion reduces women to sexual objects and by that humanity? As the feminist, Alice Paul, noted that abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women. Maybe Clare could do better and listen to this collective wisdom and see that in abortion women can do better.
Clonoe, Co Tyrone
Many unionists see John O’Dowd’s condemnation of the Kingsmill massacre as a new departure for Sinn Féin and I welcome it. John was supported in his condemnation by other Sinn Féin representatives Paul Maskey and Michelle Gildernew.
Let’s hope that this new found freedom by Sinn Féin to condemn IRA atrocities is expanded. A good start may be for Mr O’Dowd, Mr Maskey amd Ms Gildernew to seek the expulsion from Sinn Féin of Sean Kelly from Sinn Féin for the slaughter of innocent Protestants on the Shankill Road.
Change in demeanour
While the appalling behaviour of Barry McElduff is universally condemned it may have been the catalyst in bringing John O’Dowd and Edwin Poots onto the The View. That these men who are diametrically opposed from a political standpoint were united in their distaste at Mr McElduff’s disappointing disrespect, it was encouraging to witness a change in demeanour and something bordering mutual respect. For this I want to pay tribute to the intelligent, incisive, yet respectful questioning by Mark Carruthers who succeeded in showing us a side of politicians with which we are not familiar.
Nationalists in the north should be more fully aware that they risk alienating the overwhelming majority of nationalists in the
Republic by their support for Sinn Féin. The recent repulsive actions of Barry McElduff in taunting the relatives and communities of victims of an IRA massacre illustrate again the danger of such alienation.
Clonmel, Co Tipperary