Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Peace journey can still surprise us

This newspaper likes to encourage a forward-looking agenda. It seeks to engage its readers on the sort of everyday issues which really matter to a modern society; issues like the Health Service, education, the economy and crime.

Occasionally we are also forced to reflect on the legacy of our recent violent past and wonder at the progress that has been made. We know how the politicians have put past personal differences behind them to create a power-sharing administration, but there are many other people working to ensure that the new structures are solid and that the horrors of the past do not return.

And because the transformation in this community has been so remarkable, we sometimes fail to recognise the advances made. For example, look at the panel and audience attending tonight's John McMichael memorial debate in Lisburn. In the same room will be former sworn enemies, members of republican and loyalist paramilitary groups as well as some of their victims.

Yes, some people may feel uneasy at the prominence of certain former paramilitaries in political and social roles and feel that they have never shown sufficient repentance. But these people have made a long and surprising journey to not only talk together but to champion peace.

Whether we like it or not and no matter how distasteful some of those people's histories may be, they are part of the process of building a stable society from one that was previously on the brink of civil war. Perhaps they, and we, need more assistance from Stormont to accelerate the peace building. There is still no sign of the shared future document and will there ever be a real truth and reconciliation body which will hear full disclosure from all sides? Doubtful.

But that merely demonstrates that for all our advances, there is still a long way to go. Yet we should not be dismissive of what has been achieved nor of those who have taken a peaceful course in recent times and are encouraging others to join them. Perhaps only outsiders can truly sense the remarkable nature of what has happened.

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