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Removal of Queen's plaque a sad reflection of Northern Ireland

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 27/09/2016

A large scale fight broke out on a train bound for Portadown on Saturday evening
A large scale fight broke out on a train bound for Portadown on Saturday evening

What does Translink's decision to remove a plaque unveiled by the Queen say about Northern Ireland? The plaque, at Bellarena train halt, was taken down within 24 hours because the transport company feared it would be a target for vandals.

Had Translink strong reason to believe this? Does that mean that this country is still so divided, almost 20 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, that anything touched by Royal hands will provoke outrage among some nationalists, to the extent they would want to deface that object?

Of course we are not a perfect society, but it should be noted that the Queen on her visit to Bellarena near Limavady in July was welcomed by a broad cross-section of the community, including the local Lord Mayor, a member of the SDLP.

Northern Ireland is a society trying to come to terms with its recent divided past and now, two political polar opposites, the DUP and Sinn Fein, share power at Stormont and appear determined to bed down devolution more strongly than ever in the past.

While undoubtedly, as in every other part of her realm, there are non-royalists among the population of Northern Ireland, Her Majesty has been warmly welcomed on recent visits on both sides of the border, and there is no doubt she has been in the vanguard of healing Anglo-Irish relationships, especially with her ground-breaking Dublin visit.

And Prince Charles has carried on the good community relations work with his visit to Sligo, to the resort where his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was murdered by the IRA.

The prince put aside his own revulsion at that evil deed to further the atmosphere of reconciliation.

All this careful choreography has created a new mood music and a shared recognition of the wrongs suffered on all sides during the course of a long and difficult joint history.

Against that background, one wonders why Translink was so concerned about the Ballerena plaque being vandalised. If indeed it was convinced that might happen, why then not replace it with a replica plaque, keeping the original until a safer place could be found for it?

Having dragged a 90-year-old monarch and her older consort to the area to perform the opening, Translink now feels that the Queen is a name which cannot be uttered, or at least etched, in case some moron takes offence.

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