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Prince Charles visit can inspire politicians to move forwards

By Alan McBride

The visit to the Republic of Ireland by the future king of England has been viewed by many as another step along the road to normalisation of British-Irish relations.

While I wouldn't disagree with that, I do have sympathy for families of Troubles victims who found the visit particularly difficult.

No doubt it wasn't easy for Prince Charles either. Yesterday's pilgrimage to Mullaghmore where his uncle Lord Mountbatten met his death at the hands of the IRA was a reminder of the sad, painful days we are trying to put behind us. The short walk along the pier could be described as "brave'"and "courageous", but it must also be remembered that not every victim is in that place.

Sometimes you feel the weight of the loss as if it happened only yesterday and at other times you feel nothing at all - just an overwhelming sense of emptiness.

A while ago I met a woman in a supermarket whose husband was murdered in the 1970s. I knew this lady from the work that I did but when she spoke to me I couldn't place her, seeing her out of context. She said: "Alan, isn't it awful, you're just waiting to die." To tell you the truth, I wasn't really listening to her, as I was trying to remember who she was, so I simply nodded in agreement.

It wasn't until I was at the checkout that I remembered who she was and how I knew her. I then thought of what she said about "just waiting to die" and I knew right away that I disagreed with her. Both of us had lost our partners in the Troubles, but where she just wanted to die, I always knew that I wanted to live and love and laugh again.

That for me poses a fundamental question our society must seek to address as we continue to emerge from the dark days of the past. What has to happen in society to allow those impacted by the Troubles to move on? This question has as many answers as there are victims and some of what might be required could be out of reach, or at least out of the political question at this point, but what can be done should be done.

There will always be those who may never heal, but progress can be made for the rest. The visit to Mullaghmore by Prince Charles and his handshake with Gerry Adams has once again cast the spotlight onto victims, but rather than get caught up in a debate about the significance of such events, let's use the experience to encourage our politicians to get back around the table and implement what has been agreed. There was a line in the Good Friday Agreement about a true and lasting memorial to those that suffered in the Troubles being a peaceful and just society.

I agree, but we are not there yet and no amount of visits by members of the royal family, no matter how historic or poignant they are, will change that, but only the sheer hard graft of those elected to lead us working together for the betterment of all.

  • Alan McBride's wife Sharon was killed in the IRA's Shankill bomb attack in October 1993. He now works with victims group Wave.

Recovery of the body of Lord Mountbatten, killed in an explosion on his boat by the IRA. (1979). FILE PIC.
Recovery of the body of Lord Mountbatten, killed in an explosion on his boat by the IRA. (1979). FILE PIC.
Lord Louis Mountbatten
MSI Earl Mountbatten Funeral
Noel Coward(left) with Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
11th May 1937: Lord Louis Mountbatten chats to a spectator at a polo match at Hurlingham. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
File photo dated 20/11/1947 of Princess Elizabeth, now Queen, and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, now the Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace after their wedding ceremony. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will mark their diamond wedding anniversary with a special service of thanksgiving next week. Retracing their footsteps down the aisle, the royal couple will return to Westminster Abbey, where they married 60 years ago. See PA Story ROYAL Anniversary. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
File photo dated 20/11/1947 Princess Elizabeth, now Queen, and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, now the Duke of Edinburgh with their eight bridesmaids in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, on their wedding day. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will mark their diamond wedding anniversary with a special service of thanksgiving next week. Retracing their footsteps down the aisle, the royal couple will return to Westminster Abbey, where they married 60 years ago. See PA Story ROYAL Anniversary. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
Lady Edwina Mountbatten (1901 - 1960) with Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 - 1964) at a reception given for him by the Indian High Commissioner in London at Kensington Palace Gardens, 11th February 1955. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
In this file photo taken in August 1947 and released by Indian Ministry of Defense, Indian last Governor General Lord Mountbatten salutes the Indian national flag hosted at India Gate as Lady Edwina, second right, and India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru,right, looks on, during independence day celebrations, in New Delhi, India, August 1947. Sixty years ago this month, India and Pakistan won their Independence, now Pakistan, no stranger to domestic turmoil, is embroiled in an increasingly violent struggle between Islamic extremists and moderates, where as India is racing to become an economic powerhouse, lightning growth has transformed the country and fueled a consumer boom. (AP Photo/Indian Ministry of Defense, HO, File)
Britain Queen Elizabeth II...Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, right, and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, centre with back to camera, are greeted on their arrival at London Airort, on Feb. 7, 1952. The royal couple cut short their official trip to Kenya and returned home following the death of King George VI. Prince Philip is talking to Earl Mountbatten of Burma, left. (AP Photo)...A
14th March 1956: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 - 1964) and Dr Radhakrishnan (1888 - 1975) welcoming Viscount Louis Mountbatten (1900 - 1979) and his wife to India at New Delhi Airport. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL BELFAST 26/8/09. A Collect of Paul Maxwell with his sister Lisa , who was murdered with Lord Louis Mountbatten by an IRA bomb while sailing near his holiday home in County Sligo, Ireland, on 27th August, 1979
Royal visit to Ireland...Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore Co Sligo which used to be owned by Lord Mountbatten as the town is to be visited by the Prince Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall later this month. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday May 15, 2015. See PA story ROYAL Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire...A
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL BELFAST 26/8/09. Mary Hornsey 'The Mother of Paul Maxwell, who was murdered with Lord Louis Mountbatten by an IRA bomb while sailing near his holiday home in County Sligo, Ireland, on 27th August, 1979
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL BELFAST 26/8/09. A Collect of Paul Maxwell,It was the last ever picture taken of him who was murdered with Lord Louis Mountbatten by an IRA bomb while sailing near his holiday home in County Sligo, Ireland, on 27th August, 1979
View of a page from the book of register, showing the wedding of Princess Elizabeth, now Queen, and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, now the Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 13, 2007. Issue date: Friday November 16, 2007. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will mark their diamond wedding anniversary with a special service of thanksgiving next week. Retracing their footsteps down the aisle, the royal couple will return to Westminster Abbey, where they married 60 years ago. See PA Story ROYAL Anniversary. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
File photo dated 31/10/1947 of Princess Elizabeth, now Queen, and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN, now the Duke of Edinburgh, receiving a wedding present of an electric sewing machine at Clydebank town hall where they were launching the liner 'Caronia.' PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will mark their diamond wedding anniversary with a special service of thanksgiving next week. Retracing their footsteps down the aisle, the royal couple will return to Westminster Abbey, where they married 60 years ago. See PA Story ROYAL Anniversary. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
Lord Mountbatten in navy uniform 1965
Library filer from 1965 of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. The Irish Government rejected an offer from Lord Mountbatten for the free use of his castle in County Sligo, according to newly-released files. The former Earl of Burma, who was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979, had inherited Classiebawn Castle after the death of his wife. He wrote to the Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave in March 1975 to offer the castle to the state as a gesture to cement his family's close connection with Ireland.
File photo dated 20/11/1947 of Princess Elizabeth, now Queen, and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, now the Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace after their wedding ceremony. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will mark their diamond wedding anniversary with a special service of thanksgiving next week. Retracing their footsteps down the aisle, the royal couple will return to Westminster Abbey, where they married 60 years ago.

Belfast Telegraph

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