Editor's Viewpoint: Documentary’s claims cannot be allowed to overshadow impact Paisley and McGuinness had on peace process
During the ongoing controversy concerning the details of a new BBC Spotlight about aspects of the roles played by the late Rev Dr Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness during the Troubles, it is important to remember that the families of both men have responded with hurt and anger to the claims being made in the forthcoming television programme.
The former First Minister has been accused of funding loyalist terrorism, while the former deputy First Minister is accused of making bombs and showing guns to children. The reputations of both deceased men are being challenged, and it is important to remember they are not able to defend themselves against the serious accusations being made against them.
The pair formed one of the most remarkable political marriages in the history of Northern Ireland and ultimately they made a remarkable contribution to creating some peace and stability in a war-weary province. They were polar opposites with a lifelong aversion to everything the other stood for, but contrary to all expectations, they combined so well as leaders in the power-sharing Executive they earned the typically Ulster soubriquet "The Chuckle Brothers".
Irrespective of the claims made by the BBC Spotlight documentary, it is a mistake to see either of these men in one-dimensional terms. In some regards, each could have been regarded as the stereotypical embodiment of loyalism and republicanism, but this simplistic analysis belies the huge journey - and indeed the considerable risks - which both of them took for peace.
The only reason they were able to clinch their historic deal was because they were both pre-eminent in their respective political communities. Figures who make an impact on history will always be subjected to having their lives re-examined and re-interpreted.
Nowadays it is almost easy to treat their shared achievement almost casually, but many hundreds of people are alive today who otherwise would not be. It is almost frightening to realise how so many people gloss over the reality of the Troubles and the immense suffering.
As political epithets go, the achievement of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness working together, is not a bad one by any measure of success.
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