Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

MLA's words can't hide the ugly truth

Pat Sheehan

New Sinn Fein MLA, Pat Sheehan, is a much more civilised man today than when he was a committed terrorist during the Troubles.

He has a first-class honours degree, likes cricket, and skis - all a far cry from the days when he was planting bombs or on hunger strike alongside Bobby Sands in the Maze prison. He may have changed, but he is wrong to try to play down the horror of the terrorist conflict that blighted this part of the UK for nearly 30 years.

The Troubles were not "quite civilised" as he put it in a recent newspaper interview. Yes, the body count was lower than in the Balkans and there was no widespread butchering of people with machetes as in Rwanda, but the violence perpetrated here by republican and loyalist groups was every bit as sordid, every bit as grotesque, every bit as painful for the bereaved.

There should be no implied thanks to the IRA for not planting a 1,000lb bomb on the Shankill Road killing scores of people as Mr Sheehan suggested. They, like the loyalists, killed enough people with their bombs and their guns. All sides to the conflict could rhyme off numerous atrocities where the body count reached double figures. In even more cases the casualty list was kept low by luck rather than desire.

Mr Sheehan should not be trying to revise history or lessen the ugly truth of what happened during the conflict here. As someone who works with groups of people affected by the Troubles, he must realise that his words are painful to the bereaved. For them the Troubles could not have been worse. They lost loved ones. There is nothing civilised about murder and more than 3,000 people were murdered in Northern Ireland.

The new MLA would be well advised to choose his words more carefully next time. He certainly has not got off to an encouraging beginning in his new role as successor to Gerry Adams in west Belfast.

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