Belfast Telegraph

Church's dignified words on Kingsmill scandal a contrast to SF's hypocrisy

By Alf McCreary

A senior Presbyterian cleric has spoken for almost everyone except the most brutal and hard-hearted when he described Barry McElduff's odious escapade with the Kingsmill loaf as "deeply wrong".

He also said that the incident "clearly demonstrates ethical poverty and a lack of awareness and understanding of the pain that many people are still living with".

The Very Rev Dr Norman Hamilton is Convenor of the Presbyterian Church's Council for Public Affairs and a former Moderator who speaks with authority.

He and the Presbyterian Church are to be commended for speaking out on this important issue, and the Methodist Church has also come out strongly against Barry McElduff.

The Methodist President Dr Laurence Graham said: "Such an action in uploading this video falls far short of a Member of Parliament and is rightly deplored by all right-thinking people. Mr McElduff, as a member of Sinn Fein, should have shown the respect which his party advocates for others."

At this time of writing, no other statements from Church leaders have come in, but many people would like to hear the views, for example, of the Roman Catholic Primate Dr Eamon Martin, in whose diocese the horrific Kingsmill slaughter took place 42 years ago.

The comments of Dr Norman Hamilton are couched in typically dignified language and his description of the McElduff gesture as "deeply wrong" masks a whole gamut of unspoken feelings of other people, ranging from raw anger to utter disgust.

Even if we give McElduff every benefit of every doubt, it is still hard to fathom why a grown man can behave like a child in this way

If your grandchild had a penchant for putting things on their head as a show-off, you would smile benignly in the knowledge that he or she would eventually grow up. Sadly the show-off Barry McElduff is a Westminster MP, though he never takes his seat.

We all make bad mistakes at times, but McElduff will never be forgiven nor forgotten by those who realise, if he does not, the gravity of what he did. Just as the unfortunate England football manager Steve McClaren became 'The Wally with the Brolly', Barry McElduff will be forever be known as the 'Ned with the Bread' - or something even worse.

The significance of a leading Presbyterian cleric making a dignified public protest at such reprehensible behaviour is particularly poignant because a number of the victims were Presbyterians.

I clearly remember their funeral at Bessbrook Presbyterian Church, where I learned my first hymns as an infant and where I later worshipped with my grandfather and uncle on most Sundays until I left the Model Village in my late teens.

One of the victims was Walter Chapman, a pal from my primary school days, and another, James McWhirter, drove my Boy Scout troop to Belfast Harbour for our annual summer camp in Scotland.

These were real people and not just statistics. I also know well the only survivor Alan Black, with whom I have some wider family connections, and who took me many years ago to the exact spot where he and the others were shot at Kingsmill. My extensive interview with Alan, for a book called 'Survivors', was, to my knowledge, the first detailed public account of what happened.

Kingsmill was a direct sectarian attack on the Protestant people in this province and any gesture like that of the clowning McElduff is a continued affront on this whole community.

Some commentators write continually about the need for Protestants to respect nationalists, but very few give the Protestants the respect and dignity they deserve. Unionists, nationalists and republicans need each other if we are ever to establish a lasting peace.

Politically Barry McElduff has scored a spectacular own goal and has exposed the hypocrisy of the Sinn Fein members who have whinged for the past year about an alleged lack of respect for them, while at the same time showing no respect whatever for Protestants and their political representatives.

So much has happened that many of the horrors of the Troubles fade in the memory, but no-one will forget Kingsmill and the behaviour of Barry McElduff which was an affront to humanity. It has given us all food for deep and sombre heart-searching - in the worst way possible.

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