Belfast Telegraph

Those who carp about Honours list need to get over themselves

By Lindy McDowell

Congratulations to Jim Roddy - and all those other local people - whose contribution to our community has not only been recognised by an award in the New Year's Honours list, but has also been honoured by people from their own area.

Because in order to feature in such a list in the first place your name has to be put forward by those who feel you deserve some form of recognition. And, as in Jim Roddy's case, those doing the nominating appear to have been people from within the local (cross) community in the city which he has served with such distinction. A former boss of Derry City Football Club and now CEO of Londonderry's City Centre Initiative, Jim's been awarded his MBE for services to the business sector.

Anywhere else in the UK, it would be crack open the champagne and there'd be all round good wishes. Here, however, there's history. We all accept that. But we also accept (don't we?) that times have changed. The Queen and Martin McGuinness have shaken hands and had dinner together.

For his part, Jim admits to a bit of initial soul -searching over his MBE. But as a man who has worked hard to encourage cross-community relations, he felt it was right.

"It was a difficult decision to make, but I have to practice what I preach ... It wouldn't be right for me to advise people to take difficult decisions and then do the complete opposite when it's my turn," he said.

Tellingly, perhaps most importantly, he adds that he felt he had to respect too the wishes of those local people who had nominated him.

It's obviously not a decision the man took lightly. But it is the right one. That point he makes - how can you preach the need for outreach and then not practice it? - sums it up precisely.

Those who continue to carp about accepting a gong in the Honours list need to get over not just the past. They need to get over themselves. The phrase "show generosity" has become a bit of peace-process cliche. The mean-spirited, though, are with us still. Accepting such an award as Belfast's former Lord Mayor - a former internee - Pat McCarthy has done doesn't make you any less nationalist or republican. It's about individual choice. And if anything shows how we have all moved on it is that - individual choice. Yes, there are people who have reservations about the Honours system, for various different reasons.

But in the case of the truly deserving like Jim Roddy and Pat McCarthy and all those other local winners, whatever our views of the system it shouldn't deter us from saluting the achievement.

That hackneyed old question of whether people are right to accept an Honour shouldn't be allowed to overshadow what they've been honoured for.

Belfast Telegraph


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