A DERRY PEACE MURAL
Shuan Woodward [the Labour MP for St Helens South and Whiston, was secretary of state for Northern Ireland 2007-2010] said :-
"So long as Northern Ireland avoids settling on a mechanism to deal justly and fairly with its past, this will continue to be the case. The continuing pain of survivors from all communities means the potential for the peace process to unravel – however unimaginable this might be – is still there."
He went on to say "Any effort to heal the wounds of the past must recognise a shared future. The people of Northern Ireland should now be given a chance to vote for a future that is certain and secure, with a time-limited mechanism to deal with outstanding problems. This is an opportunity we should not miss. Some good may yet come out of the instability and perils of the last few days."
Gerry Adams said :-
"There is only one way for our society to go, and that is forward. I am a united Irelander. I want to live in a citizen-centred, rights-based society. There is now a peaceful and democratic way to achieve this. The two governments are guarantors of the Good Friday agreement. They have failed in this responsibility. The future belongs to everyone. So, as well as the British and Irish governments, civic society, church leaders, trade unions, the media, academia and private citizens must find a way to provide positive leadership."
Private citizens can often find ways to bring reconciliation about and in doing so it can relieve the pain and grief of people who for years have clung on to their prejudices, like old worn overcoats.
It takes a great deal of courage for each individual to face up and recognise their wrong beliefs, actions and thoughts.
Once having done so it is often necessary to contact those whom we have hurt by apologising and asking for their understanding and forgiveness. The latter may not come by one meeting it may take several consultations to achieve.
I would like to share with you an example regarding conflict
which occurred in the past, though not in Ireland.
There was a family who in the 1950's lived in a house in England, together with another occupant, an elderly lady(Ms E) who had a lost a brother in the first World War. She mourned his loss almost continuously and vehemently disliked all Germans.
The son of the family went on a school exchange holiday to Germany for two weeks and his hosts were a German family. About a month later, the son of the host family in Germany, we'll call him W,came over to stay in the UK in the shared house.
Ms E made strong objections in regards to having a German under the same roof as her and a great deal of discussion took place - eventually she agreed to meet W. The outcome was that Ms E was greatly impressed by his courtesy towards her and so enamoured that she eventually took a holiday in Germany.
To my mind it is often the case that many of us hate a group of people, be they of different ethnicity, religion, sexuality or political views, without having ever met a person of that group. We base our hatred on pre-conceived ideas which come from many sources and the only way to turn this hatred into
understanding is to meet and talk.