Walling in or out a shared future (Irish News)

Tom Kelly, writing in today’s Irish News, argues that a shared
future in Northern Ireland needs more than just shared space. I like
the quotation of Robert Frost on building walls between neighbours.

Walling in or out a shared future
Tom Kelly (Irish News)

What a week. Ian minor resigns because he says he did nothing wrong.
Two out of four victims commissioners say they would like to start work
but can’t. The Eames/Bradley ‘let’s find the truth inquiry’ met with
MI5 spook chiefs but unsurprisingly said nothing. Martin McGuinness
says he would have killed every British soldier in Derry following
Bloody Sunday but did not get the chance. And the weather was cold.

Is it just me, or is there any real surprise to what is passing for news these days?

That Ian Og resigned was hardly forecast by the reading of tea leaves.
His position became increasingly untenable through his apparently
unshakeable self-belief that he could play the media to his own
advantage.

Less words and more candour would have served him better over the past
number of months as the press relentlessly hunted out a smoking gun.

The fact that Ian resigned will be welcomed by many in the DUP who were
becoming increasingly anxious about their electoral heartlands.

With the less than charismatic Jim Allister at the head of the
Traditional Unionist Voice, it’s difficult to understand how anyone
could rally to his standard.

Yet the recent Dromore by-election demonstrated that a ‘no surrender
and no power-sharing’ message appears to find a resonance among some
‘unreconstructed loyalists’ that previously supported the DUP.

It would add much injury to insult towards the Catholic community if
the DUP attempted to compensate for the loss of bigots by extending
their reach to embrace the bullies within the wider family of the UDA.
Nevertheless the DUP strategists will have to start thinking about the
future.

Let’s hope they give it better thought than fruit cocktail thinking
behind the adoption of four Victims Commissioners. It’s little wonder
that some of commissioners are not sure whether they should be working
or not, but what is more startling is the admission by Stormont
ministers that they are not sure either! All of which makes the
Eames/Bradley mission even more impossible.

Thankfully both individuals are spiritual men and therefore will have a
higher authority to call upon for inspiration in their search for an
agreed interpretation of dealing with the past.

Not that an agreed option has to be found. Following the lead of their
political masters, they now have the option of offering each community
an ‘al a carte’ approach to conflict resolution – which then may be
made available in Irish, Ulster Scots and English.

I can’t help but think that this whole venture is a costly waste of time.

The British will never admit to the scale of collusion between the
security services and both republican and loyalist paramilitaries.

Certainly, the collective leaderships of the UDA, UVF and the IRA are
co-joined with the British government in one last piece of collusion
and that is in ensuring that the past stays as buried as the
‘Disappeared’.

Frankly, Northern Ireland is too small to ever get closure from such an
exercise and as international and indeed national experience shows, the
wounds of a civil war can take decades to heal.

The recent revelations into his past by Martin McGuinness offer an
insight into his motivation for joining the IRA and while it is natural
that some of what he says may be unpalatable to the unionist community,
his words should be accepted as a genuine and personal disclosure aimed
at providing some understanding.

Naturally those in the Traditional Unionist Voice will hear his words
differently and will seek vindication for their uncompromising stance
with Sinn Fein.

But equally the recent death of former hunger striker Brendan Hughes
again highlights the depths of disappointment, division and even anger
felt by some traditional republicans towards Sinn Fein for bolstering a
Stormont administration and playing second fiddle to the DUP.

Some of that frustration is not confined to more hard-line republicans
but is actually starting to seep through the ranks of Sinn Fein in the
assembly and this week was voiced by Francie Molloy.

Tradition and proverbs says that ‘good fences make good neighbours’.
Robert Frost questioned that wisdom and said ‘Before I built a wall I’d
ask to know what I was walling out or walling in and to whom I was
likely to give offence. Something there is that does not love a wall
that wants it down.’

Our dilemma is in deciding if Stormont is about ‘walling out or walling
in’, because a shared future needs much more than mere shared space.

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