One of the many worrying things that still haunt us in this little corner of the island is not so much events as the reaction to them. A couple of examples come to mind.
During the height of the flag protest, there was a general acknowledgement by the police and others that there were elements of the UVF helping to orchestrate that protest. This news was delivered by the Chief Constable himself with no sign of alarm and no indication as to what he thought of that. Thought of what? The continued existence of the UVF. It’s fifteen years since the Good Friday Agreement, near enough to the same length of time since Gusty Spence delivered his heart-felt apology for the actions of the UVF. Yet here they are, not having gone away, and even the Chief Constable is unperturbed.
Supposing it was established that members of the IRA were active in orchestrating protest in West Belfast. That this protest took the form of vicious assaults, night after night, on the PSNI. Would the reaction have been the same? Would the Chief Constable have acknowledged the fact, pretty much as he might have acknowledged that tomorrow was going to be a rainy day: unfortunate but inevitable?
This morning I listened to Radio Ulster/Raiodio Uladh while Noel Thompson interviewed Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre. O’Connor outlined a case where a woman whose husband had been killed was not made aware of the fact that she was entitled to £10,000 in compensation. Instead she received £750, because the British Army misled her (that’s a nice word for lied, Virginia) about the whole situation. At the conclusion of the interview O’Connor referred to another case where a mother of six was shot dead and her family suffered similar injustice. Noel Thompson dealt politely with O’Connor but he didn’t make the point that this was appalling, that innocent mothers of six should not be shot by the British Army. It was accepted as just another sad fact from our period of conflict.
Contrast that with the attention that’s been given over the years and especially in recent days to those who were killed by the IRA and whose bodies were buried in remote places. No one could accuse the media of not directing public attention to the plight of the unfortunate families of these victims and the damage the ghastly deed had done, not just to the person killed but to all those who loved him/her. And it was right that the cruelty and horror be highlighted.
But why devote hours of time to the plight of families of the Disappeared and pass calmly by the bodies of those killed by the people paid from the public purse to protect them? Or is that an omission that will be addressed in full, through TV and radio programmes, in the coming days?
I think not.