Belfast Telegraph

Pain of history still holds grip on our future

In a week when a report by the Community Relations Council showed that we are still a long way from achieving a shared society here despite the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 14 years ago, it is encouraging to hear a senior Sinn Fein figure urge republicans to say sorry for the hurt their terrorist campaign caused.

Declan Kearney, the party's national chairman, was not suggesting an apology for the campaign itself - that would be a step too far for most republicans - but recognising that the IRA's campaign caused grievous, and lasting, hurt to thousands of people in the province.

Republicans have often said that they suffered as much as anyone in the violence, but now they are being asked to consider the pain they also inflicted, and to say sorry to all the victims.

Kearney's comments in the current edition of An Phoblacht deserve close attention. Of course there will be some who will dismiss any apology out of hand, such is their grief and their distrust of republicans. But could it be a tentative step along the way towards reconciliation which everyone really wants? For that to happen the mainstream republican movement needs to act as he suggests and utter those necessary words.

It is beyond doubt that all sides in the years of violence were guilty of appalling acts and that no part of the community escaped the inevitable hurt. Whatever history makes of the violence and its causes, there is an undeniable need for a communal admission of guilt if there is ever to be a shared future built on trust.

Republicans are now being asked to begin that healing process.

That is important at a personal as well as political level.

Ultimately, every single person who has suffered deserves an apology for what was done to them - not to the community as a whole, but as individuals.

Then it might, just might, be possible to move towards a stage where the secrets of the past can be uncovered and a final line drawn under a dark chapter in the history of this province.

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