Not once but twice in the last forty-eight hours I’ve heard the idea expressed. Two decent people, both nationalists, both SDLP voters, saying that the Michaela Harte horror-story could produce good by bringing the two main communities here closer together. Nice idea, drawn from the Pollyanna school of political thinking.
The analysis is based on the fact that Peter Robinson, Arlene Foster and a few other unionist politicians called at the Harte family home in recent days to express their condolences (less talk of how many if any attended Michaela Harte's funeral yesterday). The unstated argument is that these politicians have been touched by the tragedy of a lovely young woman murdered on her honeymoon and wanted to respond to what had happened in human terms. By doing so, they have crossed another bridge on the journey towards tolerance and empathy, and that old prejudices are gradually being removed.
The alternative interpretation is that politicians always perform actions in the glare of publicity for a reason, and nine times out of ten those reasons are shaped by political considerations, not human ones. Did Peter Robinson et al say "My God how horrible - the poor Harte family - we must visit them and support them in their pain"? Unlikely. More likely they asked themselves “How will we look if we don’t show solidarity with this stricken family?” The answer they got was “Bloody awful”. And so Robinson and Co turned up and did the decent thing. And of course Martin McGuinness and republican/nationalist politicians turned up/made their voices heard in sympathy for reasons that weren’t devoid of political considerations either. The difference is that nationalists/republicans had a shorter distance to travel before empathising with a Catholic GAA family.
Too hard on unionists who have been honourable in doing this difficult good deed? Maybe. But the Pollyanna school of political thought, which would convince you that were we nicer to each other, political divisions would melt away, really does deserve to be hit with a large stick every time it raises its silly head.