18 May 2006

Without the truth funerals will go on

Daily Ireland

Daily Ireland Editorial
Editor: Colin O’Carroll

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe funeral yesterday of murdered Catholic teenager Michael McIlveen was a stirring example of the potential for reconciliation and forward thinking among the young people of the North. Unfortunately it was also a depressing example of how the dead hand of a sorry past still holds us by the throat.
There can be very few who were not impressed and moved in equal measure by the emotional scenes of Protestant and Catholic youths standing side by side in solidarity with the dead youth’s family in the large funeral cortege in Ballymena.
A completely different hate-filled message that sectarianism was alive and well in Ballymena and undeterred by the revulsion at Michael’s murder was sent out by the moronic thugs who attacked mourners on their way to the funeral Mass.
Conspicuous by his absence was the local MP, DUP leader Ian Paisley, who visited the family on Monday but opted to be in Westminster when young Michael was being laid to rest. What a hugely powerful message it would have sent out if the leader of Ulster unionism had taken his place in that cortege. Instead, the message of unity and hope was sent out by the young and the powerless of the borough who turned out, while the message of stasis and pessimism was sent out by the powerful and the old who stayed away.
The arcane theological arguments that fundamentalist Protestants put forward in defence of their furious denunciation of the Church of Rome and its adherents are little-known and matter less to those young Protestants who yesterday donned their Rangers shirts with Michael McIlveen’s name on the back and ventured forth to bury him. But the fiery rhetoric of the corrugated iron gospel halls of the north Antrim Bible Belt, where brotherly love is eschewed in favour of threats of hellfire and damnation, has its grim apotheosis on the streets of north Antrim and north Belfast where four young people have been beaten to death by loyalist gangs in the past four years of supposed peace. We do ourselves and our neighbours no good by pretending that the spectre of sectarian violence which continues to stalk the North is a cross-community wraith.
Do Catholics carry out attacks on Protestants? Of course they do, the evidence of that is there for all to see, but also there for all who want to see are the statistics which prove beyond doubt that religious violence in the North remains to this day an overwhelmingly Protestant phenomenon. The fact is that carloads of heavily armed Protestants routinely cruise the streets in search of Catholic victims. The same sectarian animus which drove the killers of Michael McIlveen is unleashed on Catholics with ferocious regularity, and rather than abating as the peace process continues, it seems to be increasing as time goes by. That is the simple, undeniable truth, even if it is one that many refuse to admit, but until that truth is acknowledged it can never begin to be meaningfully addressed, and until it is meaningfully addressed the funerals will continue.

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