Leona O'Neill: Shocking video proves our society is sick

A video of revellers in an Orange Hall singing a song about the murder of Michaela McAreavey caused widespread disgust over the weekend after it was shared on social media. The sad thing is, it's far from a one-off incident, writes Leona O'Neill...

John and Michaela McAreavey on their honeymoon shortly before she was murdered

THERE are times when the hateful and vicious undercurrent that flows beneath this place rises to the surface, shocks most decent people, before eventually fading into the background again.

This weekend a video emerged of some people singing a vile, sectarian, misogynistic, hate filled song about an innocent young Catholic woman who was murdered on her honeymoon.

How her poor family must have felt as louts roared the song about their beautiful, bright girl, cruelly taken from them in the most harrowing way. My heart breaks for them. To revel in someone else's suffering in such a way is beyond the comprehension of most of us.

The unimaginable hatred was cheered and clapped into life in that small hall, during a Northern Ireland Centenary celebration, surrounded by beer cans and union flag bunting and grown men laughing at a defenceless woman being strangled to death. And the vicious ripples of that hatred spread out across Northern Ireland onto people's phones, into people's homes.

Those few moments of time, those mere minutes of shaky mobile phone footage, have set us back quite a distance and have divided us even further.

Anyone who thinks this was a one off, small-number-of-drunken-idiots type event hasn't really been paying attention. Last week it was a vile song in an Orange Hall, next week the shock waves will be coming from another hateful video or photo from another part of Northern Ireland, from another community, the week after that somewhere else.

The fact of the matter is that our entire society is sick, and pretending otherwise, doing nothing about it, looking the other way because it doesn't directly impact on you is precisely why people see fit to pen disgusting songs about murder victims or dehumanise and mock people because they are from a religion or community different to theirs.

There is no doubt that Northern Ireland is a beautiful place populated by good people, but look beyond our glorious scenery and our great sense of humour and there is a dark underbelly that can not be denied.

Time and time again, hurting one another seems to be 'our way' here. Because of our past we are stuck in this endlessly spinning vicious circle. We veer from one shocking incident to the next, which seems to follow the same choreography – something happens, decent people are shocked, widespread condemnation, shock wears off, whataboutery, incident forgotten, on to the next. Nothing ever changes.

It's a 13-year-old child beaten in a sectarian attack in Belfast. It's a five-year-old child with 'Kill All Taigs' painted on her face at a party. It's paramilitaries forcing a family from their home because of their religion. It's dissident republicans rioting in a graveyard after marching on the anniversary of a murder. It's coffins containing effigies of dead republicans burnt on loyalist bonfires. It's the cruel taunts about a murdered police officer burnt on a republican bonfire. It's the sectarian sing-song at a wedding. It's the sickening graffiti taunting murder victims, relentless social media harassment of victims. It's our way here. It's how we do things.

It's not just a group of eight men banging on tables and singing a vile song in an Orange Hall. It's the IRA flags and chanting at a music festival. It's the thousands of people gathered around loyalist and republican bonfires, somehow thinking they are detached from the disgusting and cruel images and effigies that are being burnt.

It's ignoring the sectarian views of a relative or laughing at those of a friend. It's idolising murderers. It's walking past sectarian murals or hate filled graffiti. Challenging these things when we see them should be our way. Otherwise our way will never change and our children will be witnessing the same cruel hatred and vile vitriol and our divisions will only get deeper.

If it's not your way, speak up against it. We have such a long way to go until we have a normal society here. We can all play our part. We can not remain silent.

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