Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: We can learn from Ciaran and Sabrina over Michael Stone killing

It is true that the vast majority of people have no empathy with the men of violence and give them no support. But that was also true decades ago. Hence we need to be constantly reminded of the horror of terrorism and the need to confront it. (stock photo)
It is true that the vast majority of people have no empathy with the men of violence and give them no support. But that was also true decades ago. Hence we need to be constantly reminded of the horror of terrorism and the need to confront it. (stock photo)

Editor's Viewpoint

In their own ways Ciaran McKeown and Sabrina Hackett have sought to make a difference in a deeply divided society - he as one of the principals of the Peace People, she by telling of her own bereavement at the hands of a notorious terrorist.

Mr McKeown, who has died, unusually gave up journalism at the height of the Troubles to help found the Peace People which became a mass movement but failed to halt the sectarian killings.

He joined Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, whose two nephews and a niece were killed when a runaway car being driven by an IRA man who was shot dead by soldiers crashed into them in Belfast.

Although he was instrumental in drawing up the Peace People's declaration and organising its rallies it was widely regarded as a women's movement and Mrs Williams and Miss Corrigan were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet Mr McKeown, who left the organisation in the 1980s, will be remembered as someone who led from the front in the fight against the evil of terrorism.

Sabrina Hackett, who has spoken out about the horror visited on her family by loyalist killer Michael Stone who shot her father Dermot 16 times, wants her story to be a warning on the effect violence has on individuals.

Her whole family was affected by Dermot's death and unfounded rumours that he was in the IRA and Sabrina does not want her children to ever suffer as she did.

She has no spirit of forgiveness for Stone - indeed she frankly and humanly admits she hates him - but neither has she any wish for revenge. In that she echoes the feelings of so many people who have been bereaved by terrorism in Northern Ireland.

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They would not be human if they did not feel rage at what happened to them, but so many are like Sabrina - having experienced the terrible and eternally lasting wounds of bereavement they do not want such grief and pain to be heaped on another.

While much has changed in the decades since these two separate incidents deep divisions still remain in this society. Even more worryingly there are still active terrorists on our streets seeking every opportunity to take life.

It is true that the vast majority of people have no empathy with the men of violence and give them no support. But that was also true decades ago. Hence we need to be constantly reminded of the horror of terrorism and the need to confront it.

Belfast Telegraph

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