Thoughts on peace in Northern Ireland
24 February 2003. The UDA has recently announced a 12 month cessation in paramilitary activity. Forgive me if I remain sceptical. Even if the UDA is genuine, their stance regarding decommissioning remains an issue.
26 October 2002. So the Assembly has been
suspended and Tony Blair has given an ultimatum to the IRA to
disband. That scares me a bit. I'm scared that the IRA will just
turn around and walk out of the peace process altogether. In saying
that, however, I guess that that's what a lot of people mean when they
say that the IRA can't keep using the threat of violence to get what
Mick Fealty has some interesting things to say about the breakdown of the Assembly at Letter to Slugger O'Toole.
It will be interesting to see what sort of progress that Paul Murphy can make in the current environment. Indeed, I really don't know where he can go from here. The ball is, once again, firmly in the terrorists' hands (that applies to loyalists as well as republicans).
8 October 2002. Well, it looks like it's all going to pot again. We have had four good(-ish) years of self-rule, but now it's all falling apart. Self-rule was starting to make a real difference, with local issues finally starting to come to the fore, but with direct rule looking imminent, it looks like we are going to lose that.
28 August 2002. Last week, footballer Neil Lennon decided to quit international football after death threats by a loyalist terror group. This just seems incredibly petty to me. I mean, the man is a footballer for gods' sakes! All that he wanted to do was play for his country, and let's be honest, it isn't as if we can pick and choose! The incredible bigotry here just totally overwhelms me, not to mention making me ashamed to be Northern Irish.
In the middle of July 2002, on the anniversary of Bloody Friday, the IRA made an apology to the civilian victims of its campaign of violence over the past thirty years and also acknowledged the grief caused to the families of the security forces killed over that period.
Reaction to the statement has been mixed but I find it encouraging. It may or may not have been sincere, but the very fact of its existence is enough to make me hope again (and anybody reading these pages will know how often that hope has been dashed).
In the middle of October 2001, the IRA did something that it has never done before. It verifiably put arms beyond use, a process confirmed by the independent decommisioning body. This is something that the entire media got very excited about and called one of the most significant developments in the history of the peace process.
I should be excited as well. This action finally offers the prospect of bringing peace to Northern Ireland. And I really want to be excited, but we've been here too many times before. I don't want to get excited about this, only to have my hopes come crashing down on me as has happened so many times in the past. I have my fingers crossed that something will come from this, and indeed, the signs are good. David Trimble and his ministers have returned to the Assembly, mere weeks after they resigned meaning that the Northern Irish Institutions wouldn't have to be suspended after all.
Barely a month before this announcement, however, it was all so different. Watching pictures of frightented children trying to get to school amongst violent protests and jeers. It should have been an exciting time for many children starting school for the first time, or returning for the new year, but instead it was marred by protests and violence. Over what? The route taken by school children to get to their school. I mean this really has to take the biscuit. I really feel for those children. I can't imagine what it would be like to have that kind of abuse hurled at you for no reason. And that's what it seems like to me – there is no reason for these attacks on children, especially on children who have no part in these racist attacks. Yes, I call them racist, I can think of no other reason for it. People may hide behind a shield of politics and history, but when it comes down to it, it's just plain racism.
Under no circumstances, however, am I excusing the other branch of the North Belfast community. They too have attacked their neighbours over the past few months but my point is that children should not be involved in this. They should not be shouted at, jeered, attacked or bombed. The children are our future, they are our only chance to be freed from this violence, and these sorts of attack can only fuel the hatred and pass it down to yet another generation.