Rev David Clements (‘Catholic tag is debatable but IRA did target Protestants,’ Jan 30, see link below) was typically thoughtful in his critique of Ian Paisley’s ill judged and imbalanced comment about the ‘Catholic’ IRA (notably he didn’t refer to the ‘Protestant’ UVF).
If we are to heal our sadly divided society we can’t ignore the ugly realities of the past; they remorselessly trickle under the soil. And like any psychopathology, it can only be cured by addressing the causes. This will require great care and sensitivity with our words. But we cannot continue to ignore the truth and ‘say nothing’. It is incontrovertible that the members of the UDA/UVF etc were all from Protestant backgrounds, primarily targeted Catholics, and their core ideology was unionism. It is undeniable that the members of the IRA/INLA etc were all from Catholic backgrounds, primarily targeted Protestants, and their core ideology was nationalism. Of course no gunman was inspired to kill because of his commitment/aversion to the doctrine of transubstantiation, nor the salience of the Westminster Confession. It was so much more complex.
The churches have substantially shaped our society, often to very great benefit. However religion has also at times been a factor in pushing us apart. Rev Clements is right to tell us that if we permit a moral fog to cloud our judgement of the past, we condemn our children to relive it. President Higgins spoke in December of the importance of ‘ethical remembering, not the abuse of memory’.
Let us never be afraid to speak honestly about the failings (on all sides) of the past, with integrity and respect for the truth.
Therein lies the real hope for a better future.
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