McEl­duff’s res­ig­na­tion can be a wa­ter­shed for us all

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT -

Does the res­ig­na­tion of Sinn Féin MP Barry McEl­duff mark a new be­gin­ning when it comes to re­mem­ber­ing the Trou­bles? I think so. While Barry McEl­duff main­tains he did not de­lib­er­ately set out to show dis­re­spect to the vic­tims of the Kingsmill mas­sacre which oc­curred on the day of his tweet 42 years pre­vi­ously, it tells us a lot that there­fore he was not aware of the sig­nif­i­cance of the date.

Does it not tell us that, even in peace, dif­fer­ent groups se­lec­tively re­mem­ber the nearly 4,000 peo­ple who died in the Trou­bles be­tween 1968-1998. Barry McEl­duff’s res­ig­na­tion state­ment was a model of com­pro­mise and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion – is it a wa­ter­shed?

Will the cam­paign for a peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion com­mis­sion gather mo­men­tum be­cause of the events of the last few weeks?

Ev­ery day, on av­er­age ten fam­i­lies across these is­lands mark an an­niver­sary. Yes­ter­day is no ex­cep­tion.

Thomas Dou­glas a 21-year-old Dublin Bus driver orig­i­nally from Scot­land was killed in the centre of Dublin by a bomb planted by the UVF. He had only re­cently be­come en­gaged. Yes­ter­day was the 45th an­niver­sary of his death. An­other 21-year-old killed this week­end was Christo­pher Shen­ton from Stoke-on-Trent. He was a Bri­tish sol­dier killed by the IRA. Yes­ter­day was the 38th an­niver­sary of his death.

Kevin Coen from Sligo was a mem­ber of the IRA killed in Co. Fer­managh by the Bri­tish Army as he tried to hi­jack a bus. He was 28. Yes­ter­day was the 43rd an­niver­sary of his death.

Des­mond Mul­lan a 33-year-old Catholic was killed in 1974 in Car­rick­fer­gus in a sec­tar­ian mur­der com­mit­ted by an un­known loy­al­ist group. On the same day just across the bor­der in Mon­aghan, Cor­mac McCabe a school prin­ci­pal and mem­ber of the UDR, was ab­ducted and killed by the IRA. Yes­ter­day was the 44th an­niver­sary of their deaths.

An­other mem­ber of the Ul­ster De­fence Reg­i­ment – a part-time state se­cu­rity force – was 30-yearold Colin Hous­ton who died in his wife’s arms when he was shot in his kitchen by the INLA in 1984. They had been mar­ried seven months. Yes­ter­day was the 34th an­niver­sary of his death. .

Two mem­bers of the Ir­ish Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army – a break­away from the IRA – were killed by for­mer com­rades as they sat in a ho­tel near Drogheda on Jan­uary 20, 1987. They were Thomas Power and John O’Reilly. Yes­ter­day was the 31st an­niver­sary of their deaths.

Frank McCol­gan was a petty thief who was shot dead by the RUC car­ry­ing an im­i­ta­tion firearm after com­mit­ting a rob­bery in Belfast – he had no para­mil­i­tary in­volve­ment. The 31-year-old left a part­ner and young son. Yes­ter­day was the 35th an­niver­sary of his death.

I came across these names while re­search­ing the 150 chil­dren aged 16 and un­der killed in the Trou­bles. Fri­day was the 43rd an­niver­sary of the death of Patrick Toner killed by a IRA booby trap bomb in­tended for the Bri­tish Army. This year Patrick would have been 50.

To­day Jan­uary 21, an­other 11 fam­i­lies will qui­etly re­mem­ber the an­niver­saries of their rel­a­tives killed in the Trou­bles. All these peo­ple de­serve to be re­mem­bered by more than their fam­ily and friends on their an­niver­sary to­day. We need to do this as a so­ci­ety moving for­ward to­gether .

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