At the West Belfast Festival, Gerry Adams publicly praised the role of churchman Harold Good in the peace process.
The local MP was in the audience as the former Methodist president spoke — as he delivered the sixth annual St Oliver Plunkett lecture in which he challenged all the “major parties to the conflict” to participate in a Day of Acknowledgement.
On public inquiries and other processes of consultation on the past, he said: “None of them has taken us very far.”
Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Good (right) said the Day of Acknowledgement “should be open to everyone — the obvious and major parties to the conflict”. And its purpose would be “to put on the table what they would want to acknowledge about their participation, failures, commissions and omissions, including the issue of silence”.
“Silence is a very powerful issue about which I hear more people speak in terms of their own responsibility,” he said.
The witness to the IRA’s decommissioning in September 2005 spoke of a “man in the shadows” during that week — a man with a rifle who had “accompanied us during the events”.
“I wasn’t sure from whom he was protecting us,” Mr Good said. “I saw his presence as symbolic more than anything else,” he added.
The rifle was the last weapon decommissioned that week — the story of the last gun: “As emotional as it was unforgettable,” Mr Good said.
At the end of the event, Mr Adams said: “I want to take this opportunity to place on record my gratitude for the very positive role that Harold Good has played in the process of building confidence and trust.”
In recent days, the festival provided a stage for many different people opinions and voices — for Brendan Duddy who for two decades was the secret link between the British Government and the IRA leadership, for the UDA brigadier Jackie McDonald, for Denis Bradley of the Consultative Group on the Past, for the Irish President Mary McAleese and then for Harold Good.