Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Throw the book at Sinn Fein pettiness

The decision of Sinn Fein councillors in Dungannon to oppose the opening of a book of condolence for murdered prison officer, David Black, was petty and hurtful. Thankfully their attempt to block the tribute failed, but it is little wonder that some other councillors were angry. The murder of Mr Black was a despicable, inexcusable act by renegade republicans which was roundly condemned across the political spectrum, including in a forthright manner by the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein.

Why then would other party members seek to prevent people signing a book of condolence? To say, as Sinn Fein mayor of Dungannon, Phelim Gildernew did, that such books are only opened for people who lived in the district is a puny excuse. It has to be recognised that Sinn Fein in these days of peace is being asked to do things which it might have blanched at in the past, but it has been vocal in its opposition to the terrorist activities of dissidents. Supporting a book of condolence would have been a positive action to sit alongside the words of Mr McGuinness. Mr Gildernew's decision to then sign the book once it was opened served little purpose. The harm had been done.

But then it is often the case among all shades of political opinion in Northern Ireland that a small minded gesture causes offence. We have had some sterling examples of politicians breaking new ground during the peace process - probably none greater than agreeing to share power - but in the background there is often petty squabbling that makes one wonder what real progress has been made in changing some people's outlook.

This row in Dungannon is not a major story, nor is it a threat to the peace process. It is just raises hackles a little. And it is bound to add to the grief of the Black family circle who are desperately trying to come to terms with the death of a decent man. Those who indulge in such pettiness must remember that it is down at street level that hearts and minds are won and Sinn Fein's councillors have done themselves no favours in this instance.

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