Leading Article: At last, it is a time of peace and goodwill in Northern Ireland
Friday 24 December 1999
The release for the holiday season, yesterday, of every convicted terrorist in Ulster who has not yet been set free under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, brings familiar mixed feelings with it. We remember the identities of these people much less well than we do their victims. So when, for example, those of us who work at Canary Wharf, in London's Docklands, hear of the release of James McArdle, who was convicted of killing two innocent Asian newsagents with a one-ton truck bomb just three years ago, our memories of that terrible night come swimming back.
But if allowing McArdle to eat Christmas turkey with his relatives can forestall such wanton murder in the future, perhaps it is as well to swallow our misgivings.
A clear and moving expression of this point of view is being broadcast on radio by RTE in Ireland and the BBC in Northern Ireland today. In this broadcast, many of the senior political leaders associated with bringing about the new settlement in Northern Ireland talk about the lives and death of particular victims of the Troubles. They base their recollections on a remarkable book, Lost Lives, which tells the story of every one of the 3,367 people who were killed in the conflict in Northern Ireland. But they add to the bare bones of the tale their own experiences of these killings, which mostly have to do with reconciliation.
The SDLP's John Hume, for example, speaks of attending a funeral in 1993 after the killing of seven people in a bar in the village of Greysteel. This was at a time when he was being criticised for talking to Sinn Fein's President, Gerry Adams - but none the less the young daughter of one of the victims told him that they had been praying around her daddy's coffin that his talks would succeed. Bill Clinton similarly tells of how, shortly after the Omagh bombing, his resolution to see the peace process through to a successful conclusion was strengthened by the urging of the victims and their relatives whom he and his wife had met there.
Often we are told that looking back only causes old wounds to fester. This advice, however well meant, is otiose. Human beings do not forget the past, particularly when it is a source of deep pain; they relive it over and over again. The challenge is to avoid repeating it. Wisdom comes not just from looking forward in hope, but also in looking back with understanding.
For these reasons, mixed feelings are not inappropriate during this year's commemoration of the birth of the Prince of Peace. It may not yet be the time for celebrations in Northern Ireland; it is, rather, a time for remembering those who have been lost. Looking back with them in mind is our best hope for the future.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Not suppost to cry': 9-year-old lists the worst things about being a boy
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 4 Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
- 5 Kenya bus attack: Al-Shabaab militants kill 28 non-Muslims who failed to recite Koran
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track