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McElduff's behaviour perpetuated pain of the past

 

By Fr Patrick McCafferty

Last weekend, as the hurt and offence caused by Barry McElduff's video on Twitter was deepening, many Christians were commemorating the sacred events that mark the beginning of Our Lord's public appearances and ministry: His Epiphany and His Baptism.

We heard, in Catholic churches, from the apostle Peter's sermon in the house of Cornelius: "The truth I have now come to realise is that God does not have favourites, but that anybody, of any nationality, who fears God and does what is right, is acceptable to him" (Acts 10: 34-35).

Life, in Northern Ireland, is riddled with the disease of contempt and it manifests its symptoms, very obviously and virulently, in politics.

Barry McElduff's behaviour, further traumatising the families affected by the Kingsmill massacre on January 5, 1976, is but one further example of how too many, in public life, perpetuate and intensify the searing pain of the past.

Wounding words - and attitudes that further alienate - are by no means confined to one tradition. The toxicity is prevalent in both traditions.

Furthermore, public affairs are often conducted in a viciously hostile atmosphere, by people addicted to high dudgeon and whose high horses are never tethered too far from their sides.

It is an impossible situation which causes exasperation and incomprehension among decent people, who look on as necessary and vital services, in health and education, are laid waste. What is necessary, among both traditions in the north of Ireland, is a seismic conversion of minds and hearts.

Those in public life especially, who have grave responsibilities and quite a number of whom would claim to be "God-fearing", are called to realise something of the truth that changed the outlook of St Peter - that "God does not have favourites". Neither nationalists nor unionists, neither republicans nor loyalists, in Northern Ireland, are the "chosen people".

Evil elements within both traditions have inflicted devastating atrocities on their fellow human beings. Whether it is Kingsmill or Teebane, McGurk's Bar or Loughinisland, or any other of the long list of murderous outrages that can be listed, to disrespect the anguish of those who continue to mourn the victims is an attack upon the whole community.

Our community certainly deserves and needs better from those in positions of leadership and responsibility. Unfortunately, whether it is careless words, inflammatory actions, or bad stewardship of resources, we also suffer as a result of a lack of accountability to the general public.

All of that needs to change. Where are the persons, in both traditions, who will lead us out of the vicious cycle of arrogant self-righteousness, cynical opportunism, mutual loathing and endless recriminations?

In our society, the Christian faith remains strong and has many, in private and public life, who profess its truths.

The Word of God is very clear: "Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active; only by this can we be certain that we are children of the truth" (I John 3:18-19).

And the truth is that "God does not have favourites" (Acts 10:34).

The realisation of this truth transformed the spiritual outlook of the apostle Peter and radical conversion towards it can dramatically renew the political landscape of the north of Ireland.

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