Reflecting on the Northern Ireland Peace Process as PC Steve Carroll is buried…
Like many, I was shocked and saddened buy the reappearance of violence and murder again, after so many years. British soldiers, preparing to go on tour to Iraq the next day, gunned down as they collect pizza; a policeman responding to a call from the public.
One sign of hope this time, is that there has been almost universal condemnation of these killings. Even if some perceived a bit of a delay before some Republican politicians commented on the issue, Martin McGuinness’ and others position is unequivocal.
A number of years ago, I was in the bookshop of Westminster cathedral. An elderly English lady stopped me with her hand on my arm, and said
You look very like Martin McGuinness. Has anyone ever said that to you before?
The surprise must have been clearly evident on my face, because she continued:
I suppose you might not have heard that as a compliment…
I have often rehearsed that short interchange in my mind. At the time the comment was made, there were frequent ‘attrocities’, which were rarely condemned by the members of Sinn FÃ©in, and I was more than a little uncomfortable with the comparison.
However as time moved on the Peace Process made real progress. Seeing Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness smiling – no laughing – together at Stormont remains an iconic image – a unity government was a dream that I was not sure I might ever see. Pray God, may the callous killing cease.
I don’t think I find the comparison of me with Martin McGuinness uncomfortable any more – though still a bit bizarre.
I still have hope for permanent peace in Ireland; and may Stephen Carroll, and the two young soldiers killed recently, rest in peace.