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For a better future our students must be able to critically analyse troubled past without prejudice

Letter of the day: History lessons

Alban Maginness's article (Comment, January 3) well demonstrates the dangers of a constant focus on the past here.

Specifically, and worryingly (though not surprisingly), he reports how some youth of today have a heavily coloured impression of the recent history of the streets on which they are growing up.

Importantly, while the article mentions only Catholic school students, there would be no reason to think this same shortcoming does not apply to others.

Mr Maginness was one of the more eloquent and sincere voices to be found in the Assembly chamber and committee rooms (admittedly, a not very competitive pool) and I agree with his article: it is refreshing to hear a nationalist voice so acerbically challenge the Sinn Fein position on the past. The question remains, however, what should be done?

While the truism 'those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it' is trotted out here with monotonous regularity, how is this supposed to apply to a space where there are differing, antagonistic versions of the same history?

Those students who do believe that the IRA campaign was regrettable but necessary would do well to study an image from the Hyde Park Bombings in 1982 and the carcasses of the horses which were slaughtered on that day (not to mention reading the ages and innocence of the men who were murdered).

There is something about this image - the torn flesh, the blood carpeting the road - which will not allow me ever to get into the same moral headspace as those who defend prior IRA activity.

If those students don't feel even a small degree of outrage at this image, I'm afraid the education system and the processes by which students learn their history are sorely failing not only them, but the rest of us who need generations coming through to be well-versed in critical analysis and moral reasoning.

'Regrettable, but necessary' is a lazy defence of republican paramilitarism during the Troubles.

Daniel Watson

Belfast

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