If you in­sult the mem­ory of the dead, you’re un­likely to be wel­comed back into pub­lic life with open arms

Belfast Telegraph - - REVIEW -

IN any democ­racy, great store in placed on the right of cit­i­zens to free speech.

Some views may run con­trary to pop­u­lar opin­ion, but that does not mean they should not be held or spo­ken.

But with free­dom of speech comes a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that it does not abuse or of­fend oth­ers.

GK Ch­ester­ton once wrote: “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in do­ing it.” This quote could have been writ­ten in re­sponse to the ac­tions or com­ments of two con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures in North­ern Ire­land.

For­mer Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff was forced to re­sign ear­lier this year af­ter he re­leased a video of his balanc­ing a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the an­niver­sary of one of the most hor­rific mass mur­ders of the Trou­bles, the shoot­ing dead of 10 Protes­tant work­men at Kingsmill.

Mr McElduff said he was un­aware of the an­niver­sary date when he made the video and that he never in­tended to cause of­fence to those be­reaved. If that was true, he was the vic­tim of a cruel align­ment of the stars on that night.

Com­ing back into pol­i­tics to stand in the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions next year un­der­stand­ably has drawn crit­i­cism, and Mr McElduff can hardly ex­pect any less.

Con­tro­ver­sial me­dia com­men­ta­tor Jude Collins, it ap­pears, has been dropped as a reg­u­lar pan­el­list by the BBC. His com­ments that Patsy Gille­spie, who was chained to a lorry bomb, or­dered to drive it to an Army check­point and then blown to bits by the IRA, knew he would be a tar­get be­cause he worked for the Army — and that the Omagh bomb vic­tims were not mur­dered be­cause the Real IRA tele­phoned a warn­ing about the bomb but named the wrong lo­ca­tion — were bound to cause dis­tress and anger.

Those who were be­reaved or in­jured in the Trou­bles de­serve the utmost sym­pa­thy. No one, es­pe­cially those in the pub­lic eye, should add to their pain. Try­ing to jus­tify hurt­ful com­ments by danc­ing on the head of a pin rightly brings crit­i­cism on the heads of those who do it.

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