Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Time To Forgive

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say.  In terms of Irish and British history this photograph is of momentous importance.  The former IRA man, now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, shakes hands and greets Queen Elizabeth II.  Ten, twenty, thirty years ago this would have been impossible.  The Queen of England was seen as the enemy by many in Northern Ireland, and Martin McGuinness and his colleagues were regarded as terrorists in the UK, their voices banned from the airwaves. 

Many in Northern Ireland are delighted: without renouncing their hopes for the future of Northern Ireland, whatever they may be, they see this moment as one in which the peace and reconciliation they seek may well become a lasting reality for them.  Others are furious - a small group of extreme Republicans who still set their hearts on bombing the British off the island of Ireland.  And no doubt there are people who are hurt (Nationalists, Republicans, Loyalists) whose relations have been killed in the dreadful conflict which cast a shadow over our two countries.  

Queen Elizabeth has cause to among those who were hurt - her cousin Lord Mountbatten was killed in the conflict, blown up on his boat off the coast of Sligo.  Lord Mountbatten regularly visited the Republic - he loved the country and our people.  In this photograph note Mountbatten's nephew, Prince Philip, stands behind his wife - he adored his uncle, and yet here he is smiling and waiting his turn to shake Martin McGuinness's hand. 

I think there is a lesson in forgiveness here for all of us.  I realise that no one community can claim superiority in terms of loss and victims in the conflict in Northern Ireland - they have all suffered. Too much blood has been spilled: there are other ways to resolve differences and as Christians we should all look to Jesus Christ and follow him and his teachings as we look for a way forward.


  1. I'm a Catholic and I suppose, a nationalist, in as much as I would see it as an ideal, that at some point, Ireland would be united as one; however, at the present time, I wouldn't want a united Ireland. I look across the border and see an amateur, anti-Catholic regime who have overseen the bankruptcy of the country both morally and financially. The UK government pumps millions into Northern Ireland, funded a health service which is superior to that in the Irish State. If there was a vote in the morning, I would keep things as they are and I think many of my fellow Catholic country men would feel the same way. I was pleased with the Queen's visit and I was able to catch a wave as she drove past in her armoured Range Rover.

  2. Her forces were responsible for killing 363 people during the Troubles, including children and two Catholic priests. And that's not counting their collusion with Loyalist forces.

  3. Over 500 of her own soldiers were killed, not to mention smaller numbers of other British forces personnel. In any conflict, there will always be collateral damage and also atrocities committed.

    I'm not defending the Queen or the British, but there has been plenty, and I do mean plenty, of wickedness of both sides of this conflict, and there is plenty of blame and responsibility to be shared.

    The only way to a peaceful future is reconciliation. The ideal of a united Ireland is fine, but you can't bomb and kill your way towards that objective. To do so is anti-Christian. As Pope JPII said about the Irish situation particularly with regard to the IRA, ''murder is murder''.