Belfast Telegraph

Prince Charles visit can inspire politicians to move forwards

By Alan McBride

The visit to the Republic of Ireland by the future king of England has been viewed by many as another step along the road to normalisation of British-Irish relations.

While I wouldn't disagree with that, I do have sympathy for families of Troubles victims who found the visit particularly difficult.

No doubt it wasn't easy for Prince Charles either. Yesterday's pilgrimage to Mullaghmore where his uncle Lord Mountbatten met his death at the hands of the IRA was a reminder of the sad, painful days we are trying to put behind us. The short walk along the pier could be described as "brave'"and "courageous", but it must also be remembered that not every victim is in that place.

Sometimes you feel the weight of the loss as if it happened only yesterday and at other times you feel nothing at all - just an overwhelming sense of emptiness.

A while ago I met a woman in a supermarket whose husband was murdered in the 1970s. I knew this lady from the work that I did but when she spoke to me I couldn't place her, seeing her out of context. She said: "Alan, isn't it awful, you're just waiting to die." To tell you the truth, I wasn't really listening to her, as I was trying to remember who she was, so I simply nodded in agreement.

It wasn't until I was at the checkout that I remembered who she was and how I knew her. I then thought of what she said about "just waiting to die" and I knew right away that I disagreed with her. Both of us had lost our partners in the Troubles, but where she just wanted to die, I always knew that I wanted to live and love and laugh again.

That for me poses a fundamental question our society must seek to address as we continue to emerge from the dark days of the past. What has to happen in society to allow those impacted by the Troubles to move on? This question has as many answers as there are victims and some of what might be required could be out of reach, or at least out of the political question at this point, but what can be done should be done.

There will always be those who may never heal, but progress can be made for the rest. The visit to Mullaghmore by Prince Charles and his handshake with Gerry Adams has once again cast the spotlight onto victims, but rather than get caught up in a debate about the significance of such events, let's use the experience to encourage our politicians to get back around the table and implement what has been agreed. There was a line in the Good Friday Agreement about a true and lasting memorial to those that suffered in the Troubles being a peaceful and just society.

I agree, but we are not there yet and no amount of visits by members of the royal family, no matter how historic or poignant they are, will change that, but only the sheer hard graft of those elected to lead us working together for the betterment of all.

  • Alan McBride's wife Sharon was killed in the IRA's Shankill bomb attack in October 1993. He now works with victims group Wave.

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