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Widow Joanne's remarkable message to everyone in Northern Ireland

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 25/04/2016

Joanne McGibbon during the funeral of Michael McGibbon at Holy Cross Church in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast on Thursday morning. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Joanne McGibbon during the funeral of Michael McGibbon at Holy Cross Church in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast on Thursday morning. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Northern Ireland has experienced far too many dreadful and depressing days as a result of the violence in our midst, but sometimes out of the darkness there comes a shaft of light.

This is seen in a powerful message from the Catholic widow of a man brutally murdered by so-called New IRA thugs.

Joanne McGibbon has written a moving letter to a Methodist minister praising the local Protestant community for the support she and her family received during their ordeal.

Last weekend Joanne, a nurse by profession, cradled her dying husband Michael, who had been injured in a botched 'punishment' shooting which severed an artery and caused him to bleed to death.

In her message Joanne wrote: "I have lots of friends who are Protestants and other religions, and they all mean a lot to me.

"It just shows we are all human and feel the same way. I have nursed people from all religions and cultures, and cared for them all equally."

The content is most heartening, but considering that it was written just a week after her husband was brutally murdered, and only 48 hours after she had buried him, her words deliver a remarkable message of hope.

As well as dealing with her deep and incomprehensible grief, Joanne had to live through the ordeal of her husband's funeral, which took place in the full glare of the media spotlight.

Despite this Joanne had the strength and the vision to deliver her compelling words of reconciliation, and from the depths of her suffering she is still able to hope.

She writes: "I just hope one day that this hatred and evil will be gone, and we can all live happy with each other, the way it should be.

"Thank you all so much again. It is so lovely to see the two communities agreeing with each other for a change. It would be nice if our children could have a brighter future."

By any standards, these are remarkable words which add up to one of the bravest, most visionary and forward-looking statements of our sad and troubled history.

These are the kind of words which make people stop and think, and also realise that there are special people among us who can bring hope even from utter despair.

The vast majority of people on all sides will thank Joanne for her uplifting message, and will echo, from their hearts, "Amen to that".

Belfast Telegraph

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