Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Peter and Martin should urge respect for all centenaries

A couple of years back when we were coming up to what was being described as a decade of momentous centenaries in Northern Ireland, someone made the point that this could be such a positive thing for this place.

An opportunity for us all, nationalist, unionist, republican, loyalist and indeed non-aligned to learn about the pivotal events in our separate yet shared histories. To discover things we didn't know. To peer into the past and find out more about the "other side" and in the process, about ourselves.

Call me Pollyanna, but I also thought this was a cracking idea. Three-quarters of the way through the first of 10 years of anniversaries and how are things shaping up? As they always are in these parts. Two sides. Much carping.

The same old division and tension.

Wouldn't it have been great to think that Stormont could have led the way on this?

Some chance ... .

This week they've been bickering over whether to consign Nelson McCausland to the outer darkness and over which party was most adding to sectarian friction.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, as we all know, can do the old pals act when it suits them.

They could and should have been taking the lead - and a united stance on this - encouraging tolerance on all sides.

I'm not suggesting that Martin shows up for Saturday's Covenant celebration or that Peter puts on his Easter lily for the 1916 commemoration when that comes around.

But jointly urging a respect for both traditions and thus attempting to defuse tensions would be a start.

One hundred years from now when they look back on our leaders today, will our children's children see much to celebrate?

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