Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Top republican echoes Queen's words in new move on reconciliation

Emergency services at the scene of a bomb blast in Warrington 1993 in which Colin Parry's son Tim was killed
Emergency services at the scene of a bomb blast in Warrington 1993 in which Colin Parry's son Tim was killed

A senior Sinn Fein member has echoed the words of the Queen as part of a call for reconciliation and a shared future.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Declan Kearney, the Sinn Fein chairperson, says: "Our collective priority must be to do our best to heal our community's wounds. Many things happened which we may all wish had been done differently, or not at all."

This mirrors sentiments expressed by the monarch at an Irish State dinner during her visit to Dublin just over two years ago.

She said then: "To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all."

The fact that a republican leader has quoted the Queen, albeit without attribution, recalls events in the early years of peace negotiations. Then Secretaries of State, as well as unionist and republican leaders, borrowed each other's words as a way to build understanding and trust.

Mr Kearney also cites the words of Colin Parry, whose son Tim was one of two boys killed in the IRA's bomb attack on Warrington in 1993.

He quotes Mr Parry as saying that "seeking personal justice may not always sit well with the search for peace. You may have to set aside your own goals for the greater good".

Mr Kearney (right) adds: "That may provoke uncomfortable feelings for some. However, we need a new framework for dealing with the past."

"As a community, we should begin inclusive discussions about the decisions and possible compromises required to stop the past holding back the future.

"Sinn Fein believes our relationship with the past will be enabled with an authentic reconciliation process.

"Our collective priority must be to do our best to heal our community's wounds."

Seeking reconciliation without, in the same breath, demanding justice for State abuses is relatively new to republican political discourse.

He argues that "an initiative of common acknowledgement by all sides – British, Irish, republican and unionist – of the hurt and injustices caused by and to each other could introduce a new dynamic to the peace process... reconciliation cannot be reduced to a poker game about the past." Another intriguing proposal is the recall of the Civic Forum, a consultative body made up of civic and community leaders, which last met in 2002.

Sinn Fein has long formally supported the forum but has not proactively pursued its restoration.

Now Mr Kearney promotes it as a means to broaden the search for reconciliation. "There is no design plan for reconciliation, but we all share a responsibility – as churches, academics, business, civic society and politicians – to give leadership in spite of opposition and adversity. I believe the Civic Forum should be re-established as a vehicle for that task" he writes.

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