Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Don't use past for petty point scores

It seems that we are incapable of drawing a line under our tragic past.

That does not mean forgetting those who died or who were injured, but it does mean stopping using the dead and bereaved as excuses for scoring cheap political points. The row over a Belfast City Hall reception honouring the bravery of bus drivers who kept doing their dangerous job during the Troubles is a case in point. The father of the Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile was one of an IRA gang which hijacked a bus 40 years ago and the driver was later shot dead before giving evidence about the incident.

Should the Lord Mayor be held responsible for the actions of his father before he was even born? Was this merely a way for unionists to get back at him because he apparently snubbed a young Army cadet recently during a Duke of Edinburgh award ceremony in the City Hall? Whatever the view taken, was anything positive achieved in either case? The Lord Mayor was wrong to snub the young cadet and he did right to apologise. His tribute to the bus drivers should have been accepted as such and unionists who politicised the event were also wrong.

There are more than enough events in the past to continue this cycle of blame and counter blame forever, but it gets more and more pointless. Unionists have to accept that Sinn Fein are the major nationalist party here and are a senior partner in government. Sinn Fein has to accept and acknowledge that unionists have sensitivities as well. Both, in essence, have to become more mature.

Another case in point is the assertion by Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin that she would not meet the Queen if Her Majesty came to Northern Ireland unlike senior party colleague Martin McGuinness who said during the Irish presidency election campaign that he would meet the Queen if elected. The culture minister is again indulging in posture politics which only perpetuates division and petty point scoring. It is time to concentrate on real issues, of which there is no shortage.

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