Belfast Telegraph

Colum Eastwood's heartbreak puts life into real perspective

Editor's Viewpoint

In today's paper is the moving story of SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and his family, painting a poignant personal picture about the man behind the headlines.

Mr Eastwood talks about the tragedy that struck him and wife Rachael during last year's Assembly election.  Mrs Eastwood was pregnant with twins, but tragically lost one of the babies.

On the very same day he had talked in a radio interview about how the couple were expecting twins, and people were ringing up to congratulate him.

Everything seemed so happy and bright, and he had gone straight from the radio studio to the political leaders' debate on UTV, unaware of the medical crisis engulfing his wife.

It is not difficult to imagine what his his feelings were when he heard the devastating news.

Mr Eastwood has shown great courage in talking so frankly and personally about such an immense loss, which affected him and his wife so deeply.

There are many others who have faced or are still facing deep traumas.

And they may well take comfort from his words, and his account of how he and his wife steered their way through such a difficult period in their lives.

One of the most striking parts of the interview is his story of how an elderly Protestant man, who heard about his loss, had gone to a Catholic church to ask the priest to pray for the young couple and their family.

In another part of the world this would not be so symbolic, but this simple act of kindness and concern is in itself a moving challenge to all of us in a province where far too often our political divisions mask the common humanity that we all share.

Politicians in general are held up to public scrutiny, and anyone who enters this tough area knows what to expect, and rightly so.

People who choose a political career must accept that their actions will be scrutinised.

However, it is becoming harder than ever for politicians of all parties to exist in such a difficult milieu.

It is easy to lash out at politicians these days.

You only have to look at the vicious jibes from some keyboard warriors, those cowardly and vicious trolls who lurk in the shadows.

Of course, politicians have their faults, and there are many frustrations in the wider community about the lack of progress in the political field.

But over recent years we have witnessed a growing fatigue and cynicism concerning the political classes, and although recent elections brought a larger turnout, the general trend has shown a worrying disconnect from our public representatives.

Our interview with Mr Eastwood shows that politicians are not that different from the rest of us, and they too have their emotions, hopes and fears, and often deeply personal challenges.

The SDLP leader is to be commended for revealing in public some of his deepest private emotions.

By doing this he has reminded the people of Northern Ireland on all sides that, so often, we have more in common than that which keeps us apart.

It is a lesson that all of us should take to heart.

Too often we are quick to condemn and to strike out at something or someone who arouses our deepest displeasure.

The fact remains, however, that if we are to have lasting peace, we have to learn painfully how to live together and to try to see the humanity behind the headlines, and also in each other's lives.

Belfast Telegraph

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