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Editor's Viewpoint

Deserved honours for our local heroes



Kingsmill survivor Alan Black. (Brian Lawless/PA)

Kingsmill survivor Alan Black. (Brian Lawless/PA)

Kingsmill survivor Alan Black. (Brian Lawless/PA)

The honours system has long had its critics, partially because the gongs were handed out to Establishment figures or those working in support of government or in its agencies. But it should never be forgotten that every year the system recognises the work of what are often termed "ordinary people", unheralded members of the public who have made a positive contribution to the lives of their fellow citizens.

And this year there cannot be a more deserving case than Alan Black, who gets an MBE. He is a remarkable man who, by the grace of God, survived the barbaric Kingsmill massacre that saw 10 of his workmates lined up and murdered on a south Armagh roadside 45 years ago.

If anyone could ever have been excused for feeling bitter and twisted it was Mr Black, but his thoughts then, as now, were for the friends he lost and the bereaved families.

He also had his revenge on the murderers by forming a cross-community youth football team in his home village of Bessbrook.

They may have killed his friends but they could not extinguish the spirit or decency of an admirable man, or kill the good relations exhibited by the residents of Bessbrook.

Those were very dark days when the Kingsmill atrocity, and so many other mass killings, took place. Today we face another deadly foe in the coronavirus pandemic, which saw a record 2,143 new cases of infection reported here, and more than 4,000 across the whole island.

So it is heartening to report good news as applied to some of the recipients of the Queen's New Year Honours list.

One of our leading hoteliers, Lord Diljit Sing Rana, has been made an OBE in recognition of his commitment to tourism and the hospitality industry.

He came here from India with very little but has built up a chain of hotels, showing just what vision and drive can achieve.

In recognition of alternative lifestyles, Karen McDowell, who transitioned gender when working in the NI Fire and Rescue Service and helped foster greater acceptance of transgender people within the organisation, has also been awarded an OBE. It must have taken enormous courage and resilience on her part to raise her profile on what is still an emotive subject.

Other notable award winners include a champion of integrated education, a world-class gymnast, the outstanding classical pianist Barry Douglas and former Olympic sailor Bill O'Hara.

We should be proud of everyone of them.

Belfast Telegraph