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Unionism must admit wrongs and face facts

As one who has vivid memories of the Terence O'Neill campaign against Bible Protestantism in the early and mid-1960s, I see much that is reminiscent of that time of betrayal, which was seeded by the foolish notions of ecumenical Church leaders.

In the 1960s, the institutions of the State were mobilised against those who raised their voices against the foolish thesis that peace and reconciliation could be promoted only by placating the increasing militancy of resurgent Irish republicanism through the curtailing of Ulster Protestantism.

Thus, the effort made by unionist leaders to ban loyalist parades, gatherings and protests was at the dictates of an insatiable Irish republicanism.

O'Neill, Chichester-Clarke and Faulkner all employed this "medicine". The medicine did not work then, any more than it will now.

One great difference between then and now was there was a man who was prepared to take the lead. That man was Ian Paisley.

Irrespective of the political somersaults of the last 10 years, he gave bold leadership then.

If such leadership had been given by those who called protests at Ardoyne then perhaps the riot scenes might have been avoided. Of course, it is not too late for such leadership. But it will require an acknowledgement of unionism's shameful wrongs in recent days, for it is guilty of the very placating of militant Irish republicanism of which it has accused the Parades Commission.

REV IVAN FOSTER

Kilskeery, Co Tyrone

Belfast Telegraph

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