Witness for Peace

Brings back memories.  Standing in the rubble of Portadown  after the bomb… around a lonely brazier at Alliance Avenue in Ardoyne in the ’70’s .. with Rev Joe Parker in the middle of the night outside the GPO in Dublin .. on peace marches up the Falls Road and across the bridge in Derry.  Just like the decent people who today came out in their thousands as a silent witness against the return of violence in Northern Ireland.

Looking back, it was all useless.  Because nothing will stop those who feel that historic injustice, political ideology, revenge .. entitles them to use violence.  And yet there is integrity and power in that dogged silent witness to better times.  What began in me as a soft-hearted idealism about reconciliation became an absolutely visceral distaste for all those who take to themselves an entitlement to bring suffering to others.

I’m right outside all this now.  But just a couple of things.

The new PSNI [police] is one of the unsung success stories of the new Northern Ireland.  It has balanced Protestant/Catholic recruiting and political support right across the community.

Northern Ireland has moved beyond violence but there is still a long way to go.  It’s an uneasy place still even if immeasurably better than it was.  The new institutions are working – if falteringly at times.  But the tasks involved in dismantling division are so daunting that they are hardly yet on the agenda – the need to integrate housing and to find a way of providing more shared education are only the most obvious.