Belfast Telegraph

Your 'neighbour' is not just somebody living next door

By Alf McCreary

Whether you are a believer or not, one of the great stories of literature is that of the Good Samaritan.

In the New Testament we are told that he went out of his way to help a stranger in deep trouble, and the evocative story was a response by Christ to the question from the young lawyer – "Who is my neighbour?"

That is a question which hangs heavily over Northern Ireland this week, as it has done for the past 40 years or, if you like, for the past four centuries.

People often think that their neighbours are the people who live next door, or in the next townland, but not necessarily on 'the other side'.

Once you accept that blinkered view of what it means to be a good neighbour, it leads to the conclusion that what you and your associates do is nobody else's business.

Last weekend, the expert Gaelic football commentator, Joe Brolly, created controversy when he claimed that it is "nobody else's business" if GAA clubs are named after dead republican paramilitaries.

Mr Brolly completely lost the run of himself by asserting that "people can either like it or lump it" if a GAA club chooses to name a hurling club in Dungiven after a former member Kevin Lynch, the INLA hunger-striker.

Joe Brolly is normally outspoken about GAA sport and I agreed with him recently when he claimed that there was too much cynical fouling in today's Gaelic football.

No doubt he also knows that controversial views make good radio or television, particularly in sport, where the pundits are almost more important nowadays than the players.

However, it is a different matter entirely to enter in to a highly-charged political debate where words can open wounds that have not healed – if they ever will.

Contrary to Mr Brolly's view, I think that it is everybody's business if sporting clubs and other institutions choose to identify themselves with well-known paramilitaries on either side.

It matters a great deal to me that a children's park in Newry has been named after Raymond McCreesh.

McCreesh was a former IRA gunman and hunger-striker who was caught with a rifle involved in the massacre of 10 Protestants at Kingsmills, including a former schoolfriend of mine.

Equally, I am sure that other people would be appalled if another park was named in honour of a notorious former member of the UVF or UFF.

The concept of being a 'good neighbour' or otherwise was writ large also this week with the anniversary of the Shankill massacre and, at the same time, the unveiling of a plaque to one of the dead IRA bombers, Thomas Begley.

The Shankill people behaved with exemplary dignity and restraint as they mourned their dead, and the family of Thomas Begley were sincere in their sympathy for the hurt involved.

They also emphasised that the unveiling of a plaque was not their idea.

In my opinion it was yet another example of Sinn Fein and the IRA indulging themselves in more of the 'in your face' politics.

Of course they should commemorate their dead, but not by creating more hurt to the victims of their violence.

It is so tragic that the people from neighbouring parts of Belfast seem trapped in two different worlds.

So, 'who is my neighbour?'

If you really want to find out, go back and read the story of the Good Samaritan.

And what was the punchline?

'Now you go and you do likewise.'

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