Belfast Telegraph

Uncomfortable facts in our tapestry of tears

Tribal perspectives should not be allowed to distort the past, says Basil McCrea

We are a society that continues to fail when it comes to recognising our distorted past.

In the new political dispensation there are many who are eager to help with the re-writing of our history.

The majority are sincere in their pursuit of what purports to be the truth. The re-writing of history, however, can only have real relevance if those taking on the burden of responsibility are not afraid to fill every page. The highly-publicised revelations regarding the shooting dead by British soldiers of 11 people from the Ballymurphy area have made fresh headlines.

It was the recognition of the need by so many still crying out for an honest and transparent analysis of how their loved-ones died. In one vitally important sense, the relatives of the Ballymurphy dead are no different from thousands of others: their loved-ones were stitched into the sordid tapestry of the Troubles.

They want answers and are entitled to the truth. The background to the Ballymurphy killings however is different. The relatives of the dead now have an articulate coalition of political and religious leaders supporting them.

In that sense, the Ballymurphy relatives are fortunate. Others have not been provided with the same influential support tools. They didn't have £20,000 provided by the Government of the Irish Republic to help.

One wonders, however, why the same concern of the Irish Government, the SDLP, Sinn Fein and the Catholic Church was not voiced over other controversial chapters in our collective history.

There is a self-serving, cynical escape clause by many in the political classes, in arguing that not all tears are the same. Instead, each appalling atrocity is retrospectively qualified on the basis of how it impacted on either community. The dead of Bloody Sunday, the Droppin' Well, McGurk's bar and Frizzell's fishmongers generated an awful legacy of grief.

But still there is a majority that wants to qualify that grief from the perspective of the tribal zone. Distorted perspectives still hold our society in selective chains of sectarianism.

It is politically expedient for some to make a public call for an independent inquiry into the Ballymurphy shootings. But there is silence when similar calls raise questions about complicity in equally terrible events that led to even greater loss of life. The President of Sinn Fein publicly backed the Ballymurphy inquiry demands. However, the dismissive description by Gerry Adams of the IRA murder of Crossmaglen man Charlie Armstrong as being of secondary importance to his family was a more significant indicator of his party's ambivalence towards the past.

The reality of a shared future will not materialise until we stop being selective in confronting our past.

The Saville Report was predicated on attempting to bring a measure of justice to those who died on Bloody Sunday. The £200m cost of the report was defended on the grounds there could be no price placed on bringing closure to the relatives of those shot dead.

Having met with Bloody Sunday relatives I can verify the Saville Report helped with their closure and that of a dreadful chapter in our history but there is no monopoly on suffering. There is no way a single death should be devalued if not subject to a Government backed inquiry.

Those who support calls to re-visit the past are entitled to do so but if we wish to progress as a society our conscience cannot be selective. Re-writing our collective history will only work if we refuse to delete the paragraphs that don't read comfortably.


From Belfast Telegraph