Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: War of words causes more hurt to victims

Editor's Viewpoint

The banners depicting IRA atrocities during the Troubles which were erected in a mixed housing estate in east Belfast show the toxicity of the legacy of the past.

That they were put up in streets which are meant to be shared spaces in the new Northern Ireland show how easy it is still to jangle nerves and rouse tensions.

No amount of verbal dancing on the head of a pin can convince the wider public that these banners were a positive move or a proper way to remember the dead from inexcusable terrorist attacks.

It cannot be overlooked that two of those directly affected by one of the atrocities depicted - the Shankill bombing - took directly opposing views on whether the banners should be flown at all. There is no doubt that both views are genuinely held and that the two people involved, who suffered grievously from this terror attack, have a right to air their views, yet it was uncomfortable to listen to them expressing their differing views.

There is equally no doubt that those bereaved by the Troubles and those who survived have endured enormous frustration over the years as promises of help have turned out to be little more than vacuous platitudes. Their grief has not touched the hearts of successive governments in any meaningful way.

One would not have to walk far from where these anti-IRA banners are flying to see murals on the walls glorifying loyalist terrorists and terrorism. Similarly, in republican areas, the writing on the wall is in praise of the men of terror.

How would republicans and loyalists react, one wonders, if their murals in their heartlands were painted over with scenes of their atrocities. Would they be so keen to accept ownership of the murders they committed as they are of the people who carried them out? It is easy to accuse others of being sectarian if you ignore the mote in your own eye.

So how do we resolve this endless argument of who did what to whom and why? It is not a simple problem to resolve, not least because of the lack of consensus over the definition of a victim.

It might be easier if there was a public monument to the victims of the Troubles where people could pay their respects as they do in so many other places touched by terrorism.

The one certain thing is that victims should not again be in the sights of verbal snipers, or their grief be used as a weapon in a war of words. To do so only adds to the pain that has never gone away.

Belfast Telegraph

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