Protestant/unionist community doing their young people a disservice
In the history of the Troubles there have been many atrocities perpetrated by republicans, loyalists and the security forces. However, the prevailing mindset within the Protestant/unionist community is that republicans/nationalists are wholly and solely responsible for the Troubles and Protestants are the innocent victims.
It is an historical fact the first killings of the Troubles were committed by a gang led by Gusty Spence in 1966 – John Scullion and Peter Ward were murdered simply because they were Catholics. Sectarian murders continued, the Shankill Butchers tortured most of their 23 victims to death; the Glenanne Gang accounted for up to 120 innocent Catholics – Loughinisland, Greysteel and Sean Graham’s bookmakers, collectively, accumulated 19 more. I also remember the ambivalent unionist attitude to events in Derry on January 30 1972: “If they had not been rioting they would not have been shot.”
The recent memorial service for Billy Wright and the ‘Ulster’s Braveheart’ graveside eulogy given by Pastor Kenny McClinton, was beyond credence. Some of the ‘brave’ deeds perpetrated by the cohorts of Billy Wright included the cowardly murder of Michael McGoldrick, at the height of the Drumcree debacle, and two schoolboys shot dead in Armagh City in 1994. The history of loyalist killers is one of naked sectarianism – they are not altruistic, freedom fighters defending Ulster, they have no ideology and are motivated purely by a lust for ‘Fenian blood’.
All the trappings of hatred will be put on public display again during the forthcoming marching season; bonfires burning everything Catholic and nationalist; UVF/UDA flags flying from every lamp post; Wesley Somerville, a participant the infamous Miami Showband massacre, feted as a hero in Moygashel; and Parachute Regiment flags fluttering again in Drumahoe, on the outskirts of Derry.
Some of those with influence within the Protestant/unionist community are doing their young people a great disservice when they teaching a biased, anti-Catholic version of history. Young Protestants are often sent to cross-channel universities -those who do stay may be amazed to find Catholic students behaving just like them, with the biggest bone of contention being whether you support Manchester United or Liverpool.
Newry, Co Down
Fights for recognition will go on
The much-hated Legacy Bill is intended as a means of burying Britain’s crimes during the Troubles. Westminster hoped to end prosecution of its official forces and prevent any further revelations about its bloody partnership with unionist paramilitaries. It was also meant to portray such happenings as being in the past. The steadfast pressure from victims groups and families continues to bring small victories and serves to embarrass successive Westminster governments. Positive results such as the guilty verdict of Aidan McAnespie’s killer is a cause of great rancour among those jingoistic politicians across the water. So we can see the attraction of the Legacy Bill for the Tories and those guilty individuals who may still be losing sleep over the possibility of prosecution.
Once again the British misjudged the mood here by presenting legislation that caused almost universal anger among politicians and victims’ campaigners alike. The bill was seen for what it was – a final clumsy act in decades of collusion and a means of blocking any path to justice for victims of state violence. From Dublin and Derry, to Belfast and many towns in between, there are people who mourn murdered loved ones – for them there is no time limit on hurt.
The distress caused by these murders was often compounded by the lies coming from those who were sworn to protect its citizens and subjects. Lies that falsely assigned blame to the victim and excused the guilty. Lies that were perpetuated through the years until finally exposed as propaganda in a war where twisted truth was simply another weapon in the arsenal of securicrats.
Even if the British succeed in ham-stringing campaigners for justice it will not end the search for justice and acknowledgement. Victims groups have proven just how resilient they are, and their fights for recognition will go on.
Aontú, Belfast BT11
Delaying the dream of united Ireland
Does anyone really think that the loyalist alliance against the Northern Ireland Protocol – DUP, UUP, Orange and other fellow travellers – will be satisfied with the introduction of red and green channels at the ports of Belfast, Larne and Warrenpoint? I doubt it. Anyone who has lived here more than the last 50 years would know that the only way these people will be satisfied is if the red and green channel is built at the land boundary outside Newry, Strabane and Derry. That will secure the border they want across Ireland, delaying the dream of a united Ireland which would prosper the whole island – the democratic majority of which are in favour of utilising the special trading benefits brought by the said protocol. Instead the DUP keep coming up with fake trading figures in order to justify clinging on to a United Kingdom which is more a nightmare these days than a dream – a final relic of a long lost English empire.
As I write this I think of my brother-in-law, Brendan McAllister, who was taken from us so suddenly last month, who worked all his life for peace and held the PUL community in such esteem. I can hear him say: “Ah, Peter you must understand their feelings.”
Newry, Co Down
Expression of thanks
I would like to express my thanks to readers of The Irish News, on behalf of Concern Worldwide, for their support in 2022.
Last year was a year few will forget – with more hunger, more displacement and more people in crisis around the world than ever before.
From conflict in Ukraine, to drought and food shortages in East Africa and floods in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Concern teams were at work, responding to emergencies and battling to protect the advances achieved by vulnerable communities around the world.
That work in 25 countries reaching almost 40 million people was made possible thanks to our supporters here at home. Their commitment and generosity during tough times continues to inspire and amaze.
NI director of Concern Worldwide (UK)