Terror visited the streets of Westminster, the hallowed seat of British power, on March 22nd 2017! This attack however disgusting and barbaric is not a first for the Palace of Westminster, I’m thinking of the gun powder plot and the Blitz. Despite this type of attack being nothing new, past attacks like those this week show threats to democracy will always fail. The whisper of truth is always more powerful than the shouting of lies and yet the old phrase that the lie is half way around the world before the truth has its boots on, is still on my mind.
This past week in the U.K. there was the attack on Westminster but also there was the funeral of Martin McGuinness. He was a former IRA member and a former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, he was in a word- complicated. Much like the ‘Troubles’ that he participated in directly and the new world that he helped build in the North of Ireland. When you have someone like Norman Tebbit, giving his tuppence worth to any media outlet who will listen, calling McGuinness ” a coward who never atoned for his crimes”. I’m left wondering if people like Tebbit are the reason the past is never laid to rest, why the world keeps allowing the same mistakes over and over again. Tebbit wishes McGuinness “an eternity in hell”, no doubt because an IRA bomb paralysed his wife, a torment for her but nothing less than plain old revenge for him.
Whereas surely Martin McGuiness’ life teaches much more about the possibilities of life, rather than it’s horrors! I don’t discount or forget what the IRA did during and after the Troubles, your past isn’t forgiven because you turn your back on violence. McGuinness didn’t ask for forgiveness; but he did do something that until he made the choice was impossible- the removal of the gun from the politics of Northern Ireland. Norman (get on your bike) Tebbit, is a Tory- to the rest of the world that means a person who believes that greed is good, if you’re poor it’s because you don’t work hard enough and in Tebbit’s case forgiveness is a sign of weakness!
The reporting on the BBC this week about the death of Martin McGuinness, was both enlightening and infuriating. Firstly his death demonstrated just how far the North really has come from the Good Friday Peace of 1998! If Ian Paisley, a man who symbolised the Unionist position could shake his hand, share a joke and an office and his wife could say about Martin; “you don’t know what god used on Martin McGuinness, but he did change”! Then that’s the ultimate sign of changed times, it wasn’t quite the damascene conversion that Lady Paisley envisioned but the DUP leader Arlene Foster turning up at his funeral in Free Derry and receiving a round of applause! 20 years ago in Derry you wouldn’t have heard applause, only gunfire!
Having visited Derry and Belfast a couple of years ago, it’s fair to say that on the ground things have changed, Stuarty and I stayed in once the most bombed hotel in Europe, the Europa. A very fine establishment, across from an even better pub! However we did go to Derry, we had a lovely lunch and then visited the Free Derry Bloody Sunday museum! Without going on full rant, it is museum based on the terrible events of a civil rights march in January 1972, whereby catholic citizens of Derry were protesting the gerrymandering of the political process, by unionists. It’s not called Bloody Sunday because it was day of traffic disruption, it was so-called because British Paratroopers opened fire on the marchers and killed 14 of them!
For years the British government stonewalled everybody, stating that the IRA opened fire on the ‘Brits’ first and that some of those shot were brandishing weapons. Only now more than 40 years later do we have it confirmed, what many long suspected, that these people were complete innocents. And that the British Army committed nothing more or less than murder on the streets of Derry that day. Now this is the setting of McGuinness’ life! When viewed from that perspective, his willingness to shake hands with members of the British Establishment and to join with the unionists for the sake of peace, seems extraordinary. No more extraordinary than the unionists agreeing to power share with a former IRA man. For nobody with any power in Northern Ireland, doesn’t have blood on their hands. McGuinness teaches a valuable lesson, that any progress requires both sides to set aside prejudices and notions of revenge for a better future.
People like that nutcase who killed people in Westminster, will never win, never see their way come to pass, because it takes courage to forgive! It doesn’t mean you forget, it doesn’t mean that everybody agrees; all it means it that there has to be something better than an eye for eye- it only serves to make the whole world blind! Martin McGuinness showed he was the master of his own fate, men like Tebbit will be weighed down by their hate and those so-called soldiers of Islam can never achieve their aims. McGuinness was not a perfect man, he never claimed to be, but his life and indeed his death shows, that even the most complicated of people can in the end provide the simplest of examples! So that even in these times were the Northern Irish Assembly is in turmoil, people are still talking and trying to reach a compromise and they’re not reaching for bombs and guns.
So in closing this past week has shown the complexity of human beings; in their capacity for cruelty and their capacity to care! To me in these times of Trump and Brexit, it makes me think there are more good people than bad, more positive forces than negative and more reason and sense than prejudice and hate. It’s just that they shout the loudest, it doesn’t however make it true!
N.B. I do not own these images- Fair Useage and All that Jazz…