Letter: Plea for Ulster

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Sir: I was raised in Belfast in the 1950s and 60s, perhaps the only time in living memory when working class Catholics and Protestants could live there side by side in peace. My parents avoided those two denominational labels so scrupulously that, when I was first asked which foot I kicked with, I did not know. My friendships spanned what is now described as the community divide.

Since then, I have walked in the blood of murdered Catholics, still clutching their betting slips while, out on the street, a community stood frozen in silent horror. I have seen the grief in the eyes of young paramedics describing how they cradled the bodies of dead Protestant children from the debris of an IRA bomb.

I have lost colleagues and friends. I have walked behind the coffin of one colleague's 87-year-old uncle, shot as he watched the World Cup on television in his local pub. I have written commendations for an ambulance crew who saved the life of a baby girl who was in her uncle's arms when the gunmen came to shoot him and decided that they couldn't let a little thing like her stop them.

Does it really have to be like that again before our leaders are touched with the vision of statesmanship? I hope not (I gave up praying a long time ago). I want to implore them to call a halt to the political point- scoring and get down instead to solving problems in a civilised way. Only in that way can they honour the sacrifice of the dead and the pain of the bereaved.


Dorking, Surrey