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If DUP and SF can't do duty, maybe UUP and SDLP can look to great leaders of past to take up reins

letter of the day: history lessons

Many politicians in Northern Ireland are now too young to remember the chilling violence at the start of the Troubles and the worst horrors of the early-1970s - a time of utter despair.

A similar UK-wide process took place a few decades ago, when few politicians who were adults during the Second World War were left at Westminster.

Ted Heath probably harboured a criticism of Margaret Thatcher, among many other reservations, that she had never witnessed the destruction of war first hand. She, therefore lacked, perhaps, a certain insight, a degree of emotional intelligence.

With obvious qualifications, Ted Heath, on the other hand, would have respected Martin McGuinness for the journey that he made.

One hopes his respect for Ian Paisley went without saying, though he caused Mr Heath enough problems during his period in Number 10.

Fresh starts and fresh thinking bring great opportunities. But a wise and gentle take on history is required by new political leadership, whenever it arrives, and a never-ending striving for empathy.

Are either of the current leaders of Sinn Fein in the north or the DUP able to rise to their historic duty?

If not, the UUP and SDLP need to find the will to succeed from somewhere, perhaps by reflecting on the nightmare of the early-1970s and their own, great, unifying leaders from the past.

JOHN GEMMELL

Birmingham

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