Belfast Telegraph

Jeff Dudgeon: 'McGuinness only had to fear the sense of his own shame'

Ulster Unionist activist says the legacy of deaths caused by republicans will haunt Sinn Fein for decades

Martin McGuinness's visit to Warrington and what he said was well-received by some, excepting thoughtful criticism from unionists and opposition from relatives of 21 people horribly murdered by the IRA in the Birmingham bombings of 1974.

The story of the hundreds of police and soldiers from across Great Britain and Northern Ireland who died so quietly to keep the peace in Northern Ireland continues to go unwritten.

Their sacrifice has gone almost unremarked. The fact that they prevented anarchy is something that needs restated, and indeed researched.

A very few books like those of Ken Wharton (‘A Long Long War’) deal with ‘Operation Banner’ and the huge numbers involved, directly as soldiers, or through families at home.

McGuinness only had to fear the sense of his own shame. Ostracism was not a danger as Colin Parry had guaranteed a respectful reception.

He does not forgive the IRA, the organisation, but seems willing to forgive those actually involved, at all levels, in the murder of his son Tim and that of 3-year old Johnathan Ball in March 1993. Time has eased his pain, helped by the huge effort he has put in to creating the Warrington Peace Centre. The visit for him underlined the efficacy of that work.

Its problem is the legacy of the two thousand deaths caused by republicans. They will haunt Sinn Fein for decades, popping up unexpectedly and derailing their attempt to assume the mantle of de Valera and Lemass, the first Fianna Fail leaders, who in a real sense also had blood on their hands.

Some of the more notorious Troubles atrocities involving civilians can, Sinn Fein hope, be decommissioned with carefully crafted statements of regret.

What of course went unsaid was that the bomb in Warrington was the rawest of terrorist acts. It also had the hallmarks of revenge, the particular Republican mode of revenge.

Bridge Street Warrington was no economic target but the town had to pay a price for the capture of two IRA men who a month earlier had bombed an economic target, the Warrington gasworks."


 

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