Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Wrangling over memorial shames those who would oppose remembering the dead and wounded of Belfast Blitz

One of many scenes of devastation in Belfast during the Blitz bombing raids of April and May 1941
One of many scenes of devastation in Belfast during the Blitz bombing raids of April and May 1941

Editor's Viewpoint

Perhaps it is only in Belfast that a City Council committee could vote against a proposed memorial to mark the 80th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz. Such a decision is singularly depressing, given that in a series of air raids in 1941 the Luftwaffe attacked military and commercial targets in the city.

In the second raid, up to 200 aircraft dropped bombs north of Belfast Harbour during which over 950 people died or were seriously injured, and a total of 70,000 victims were treated in emergency centres.

Thousands of Protestants and Catholics sheltered together, and the dead were laid out together in makeshift morgues. This was one of the "shared" experiences of the city's relatively modern history. The German bombers did not discriminate between Protestants or Catholics, and it is immensely sad that our councillors cannot agree on what would be a fitting memorial to all the dead and injured.

Elsewhere in today's paper, the historian Keith Haines paints an evocative portrait of life in Belfast in 1918 when the people were just beginning to shed the shroud of the Great War.

As they tried to do so in the run-up to a subdued and painful Christmas, there were memories in many homes about family members who never came back from battle, and the burdens of those who were injured. At home and overseas, both World Wars took an enormous toll in death and suffering, and we should never forget the sacrifice of people from all backgrounds.

How ironic and terribly sad that we are so fixated, some would say trapped, by our history that at times it hijacks the present and leaves us blindfolded to the future, and we cannot agree to remember fittingly the loss that affected us all.

In recent weeks we witnessed the moving Centenary commemorations for the 1918 Armistice and recalled the almost unbelievable scale of losses on all sides. Yet only a short time afterwards our councillors failed to agree on a fitting memorial to those who suffered in the 1941 Belfast Blitz. We deserve better, and so do they.

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