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The IRA poisoned Protestants' sense of Irishness

Published 16/10/2015

It's bizarre that the Deputy First Minister doesn't regret the IRA, or what it did. Its decades were a catastrophic, monumental and spectacular failure.

The IRA's only "triumph" was to further polarise Protestant-Catholic relations and to poison the ability of Protestants to self-identity as Irish. It ripped apart the Planter and the Gael and left the people of Northern Ireland with the demented notion that unionists are not - and cannot be - Irish.

Before 1916 and partition, unionists were Irishmen. Before 1969 and the IRA homicide campaign, many unionists saw themselves as Irish. After decades of IRA killing, few unionists see themselves as Irish. Being Irish is now the mark of a sell-out and Lundy for unionists. Sinn Fein representatives have been known to speak to Americans, calling themselves Irish and unionists British.

It is deeply regrettable that Martin McGuinness - in his interview with Eamonn Mallie on Irish TV - has given two fingers to the Protestant-Unionist community and said: "I don't regret it and would do it all again."

He has made big gestures and he has shook hands with people, but he still cannot handle the fact that IRA violence has made a united Ireland virtually impossible. Remorse for the murder and mutilation would help his cause hugely.

The Deputy First Minister is hailed for his leadership, but he has abdicated on this point. The absence of regret and penitence simply polarises relations, thereby prolonging if not making partition permanent and poisoning Irishness for Protestants.

BRIAN SPENCER

Belfast

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