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The ever-present danger of history repeating itself

By Liam Clarke

Published 15/08/2013

Belfast's Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir
Belfast's Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir

The attack on Mairtin O Muilleoir, Belfast's Lord Mayor, at Woodvale Park was a low point of the summer.

The failure of unionist elected representatives to rally to his defence was depressing, but not entirely unprecedented.

Much the same thing happened, with the roles reversed, in 1986, when Sammy Wilson was Lord Mayor of Belfast.

When he accepted an invitation to open an arts event at Divis, he got mobbed and was forced to leave.

The assault may, or may not, have been as serious as the one on Mr O Muilleoir (pictured), but punches were certainly thrown and, at the time, Republican News reported the incident without much sympathy for the DUP Lord Mayor. That was 1986, when the terrorist campaigns were still raging. Power-sharing and decommissioning seemed an impossibly distant dream. Now they are secure. Or are they? This recent incident, with loyalists replacing republicans as the aggressors, shows the danger of history repeating itself. With a string of elections starting in 2014, politicians need scrupulously to avoid any temptation to exploit old hatreds for political gain.

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