Editor's Viewpoint: Horror of Greysteel a shameful milestone
Last night the eight victims of the Greysteel massacre were remembered in a solemn and dignified service. That horror, when loyalist terrorists entered the Rising Sun bar, shouted their infamous "trick or treat" and opened fire on people simply enjoying a night out, ended one of the worst, nightmarish weeks of the Troubles.
In all, beginning with the Shankill bombing, 24 people were to die in that week in October 1993. It left bereaved families in Belfast and Greysteel, who never knew each other before, forever joined in the same sentence whenever mention is made of the killing frenzy that besmirched the name of Northern Ireland in the minds of all people with even a modicum of humanity in their make-up.
Both massacres of the innocent were unjustifiable - as, of course, were all the other deaths that week - and should have put the organisations responsible beyond the pale.
Sadly, that was not to be the case.
The only difference between the two killing sprees was that the Shankill bombing came unexpectedly, out of a clear blue sky. It was something not anticipated. But the planners of that bombing knew fine well that, whatever the outcome, others, their fellow Catholics, would be sacrificed on the altar of revenge, as loyalist killers would retaliate.
Those who lived in Greysteel perhaps imagined they were so far removed from the Shankill that other, closer targets were more likely than their little pub. It is ironic that in their bloodlust the loyalist killers murdered two Protestants at the Rising Sun. People of different persuasions who lived and socialised together, died together. If there was any good to come out of those murders it was that just over four years later the historic Good Friday Agreement was signed.
The message had finally got through to the political classes that sharing life and power was the only alternative to sharing death.
That agreement was massively endorsed in Northern Ireland and even more overwhelmingly accepted in the Republic of Ireland. It was not a perfect Agreement - which one ever is? But it heralded a period of hope, often dashed but never extinguished, and created a society largely at peace with itself.
The gunmen and the bombers deserve no credit for anything that emerged from the Troubles.
Indeed, events like Shankill and Greysteel should be their badges of shame.