Michelle, don’t try to rewrite history or sanitise a gunman’s actions
Michelle O’Neill saying there was ‘no alternative’ to violence is a cruel and flippant response and callous excuse for the hurt, pain and grief that was inflicted on innocent families during our casually referred to Troubles.
By that measure she might as well say that the school yard bully using violence to intimidate fellow pupils is okay and understandable because he or she has no alternative. It’s like the bully saying “you made me do it”.
Every day in life we are faced with alternatives.
We all have choices to make. Some choices solve whatever problem we are facing that day. Others turn out to be not the best choice and we have to live with the consequences. That’s life.
But using violence is not an obligation Michelle. It is not something that someone automatically has to resort to when faced with any situation. Violence is a choice. Made freely by the person involved.
The person who murdered my brother John had a choice. He could have walked away at any moment before entering my ice cream parlour on October 11 1988.
But he didn’t. He made the choice to shoot John four times, making sure that his preferred option of violence would be successful and that John would die that night. The choice was made to also shoot and seriously injure two young customers that night who posed no physical threat whatsoever.
So, please don’t attempt to rewrite history or sanitise the gunman’s actions that night Michelle.
I’m sure the person who killed John has faced a multitude of alternatives during his life and one of the choices he freely made was the path of violence. So please don’t make excuses for him Michelle.
And as I have said many times before, I do not take sides. Every mother’s tears are the same.
So I have no problem in saying that any person, no matter what official or paramilitary uniform they wore, who selected the alternative of deliberate violence as their preferred option cannot absolve themselves now by saying they had no alternative.
Choosing violence is not the answer – it achieves nothing but heartache for those left behind.
And your flippant ‘no alternative’ comment Michelle is not only cruel and insensitive to victims and their families but it is dangerous.
It has the potential to teach a new generation that it is okay to choose violence if they can justify it in their impressionable young minds as the only alternative.
All politicians should choose their words more carefully if they really care about reconciliation and ensuring that history and the mistakes of the past are not handed down to our children and grandchildren.
Author of ‘They Killed the Ice Cream Man’, Belfast
There was always an alternative to violence
In 1998, the Saville Inquiry was set up to establish a definitive version of events which occurred on January 30 1972 in what become commonly known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. To achieve this objective, the tribunal listened to testimonies from various witnesses who were present in the Bogside on that particular day.
One of those who testified before the tribunal was Charles McGuigan, son of Barney, a 47-year-old man shot point blank in the head by a paratrooper on that day. During the tribunal Mr McGuigan recalled that “at the time of my father’s death, my mother cleared a space in our kitchen and made me kneel under the Sacred Heart picture and swear to her that I would never do anything about my father’s death that would bring shame on the name of the family.”
Mr McGuigan concluded his testimony by saying he had honoured that promise to this very day.
No-one could have had more justification than Charles McGuigan in seeking to avenge the death of his father. However Mr McGuigan (and many others) were able to show the moral restraint not to resort to violent measures, in spite of what they had experienced.
It is therefore inconceivable that the vice-president of Sinn Féin, Michelle O’Neill, should claim there was no alternative to IRA violence to the events of that time. In attempting to justify the use of violence, Sinn Féin have demonstrated they are not capable of participating within the democratic structures of a civilised society.
Unionists being deterred from seeking shared future
There are increasing indicators that young, educated people in the north from a unionist background, who want to be part of the European Union are more open to the idea of a united Ireland. However, they naturally want to know what unity would mean for daily life, public services and the economy in the north.
They are getting no answers or encouragement from taoiseach Micheál Martin or the current Irish government. In fact, Mr. Martin appears to be doing everything to discourage such people from seeking a shared future with the rest of us. His repeated attacks on those who seek to plan responsibly for unity merely bolsters the unreconstructed ‘No’ men of unionism.
It is incumbent on the Irish government to offer a constructive pathway, not just for those from the unionist community, but for all of us, north and south, into the new Ireland that is clearly emerging.
Partition has failed, continues to fail and offers no long term stability or economic progression for any part of this island.
It’s time for Micheál Martin to show some real political leadership and rise to the challenge of planning the future of this island. An all-island Citizens’ Assembly would be a good start.
Dundalk, Co Louth
We need an assembly
It is three months since elections to Stormont were held and we still do not have an assembly.
In a democracy the wishes of the majority should take precedence.
How can it be democratic for 25 DUP MLAs to prevent the rest of the 90 fulfilling the promises they made to the electorate?
During the campaign people were demanding action on the cost of living, on a budget, on the health service, on the environment, on climate change, on education and all the matters that concern us all. We need urgent action to tackle sectarian and racial hatred.
There is stalemate at Westminster until a new prime minister is elected and she or he will not have the affairs of Northern Ireland at the top of the agenda.
So it is up to all 90 of the elected MLAs here to put aside party politics and get the assembly working.