17 January 2014 No Comments by The Northern Standard

To suggest that the comments of Ian Paisley in relation to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings – widely reported in the media last week in the run-up to the broadcast on Monday of a BBC interview with the controversial Unionist politician on his career – might be to the ultimate benefit of those seeking the truth about the atrocity is to risk abrading further the wounds that Mr Paisley’s words undoubtedly aggravated.

Nonetheless, it is in our editorial view a legitimate interpretation to put on the renewed attention the controversy has brought to the many troublingly unanswered questions about the May 17 1974 bombings that resulted in the largest single death toll of any day of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Recent comments about reconciling the people of this island with the terrible events of the internecine conflict in the North, made by British Government officials and others, have suggested that the drawing of a veil over the questions of responsibility and attribution still outstanding in relation to many incidents was gaining predominance as a means of moving forward into the landscape of burgeoning peace we have begun to inhabit.

This newspaper has objected forcefully in the very recent past and on previous occasions to such a “forgive and forget” philosophy being embraced in our national context – and have cited in particular the Dublin and Monaghan bombings as one dimension of the legacy of the Troubles to which the full light of clarity must be brought to bear to enable those still bearing its scars to reach any meaningful condition of reconciliation with the past.

Therefore we welcome Mr Paisley’s comments – or rather, we should hastily clarify, some of the reaction that they have provoked.

We refer in particular to remarks made by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore in Dublin on Friday that suggested that the 1974 attacks could be the subject of future investigative processes in the context of the development of the inconclusive framework for progress recently worked upon by the main political parties in the North.

This marks a significant change of attitude at Irish Government level, where quiescent acceptance appeared to have set in over the British authorities’ continued refusal to release documentation in relation to the bombings despite this material’s crucial bearing on the issue being highlighted by a succession of enquiries.

If, in this 40th anniversary year of the bombings, a renewed impetus is given to the objectives of the campaign of the Justice for the Forgotten organisation, which represents the interests of the majority of the bereaved families in the matter, and the British Government is forced by concerted political and public pressure to finally allow the truth to be told, then Mr Paisley’s unwise words might have served a purpose beyond their weight and worth.

To suggest, as he did, that the Irish Government of the day was somehow culpable for the appalling loss of life and injury that ensued because of its attitude to Northern politics of the time is, of course, outrageous.

The comments were admittedly only a small part of what was more or less a final testament by Mr Paisley as journalist Eamonn Mallie brought him through the broad sweep of his integral involvement with the turbulent events of recent Northern Ireland history and his own transformative change of stance that had helped facilitate the breaking of the sectarian logjam.

Given the recent road he had walked, what Mr Paisley had to say about the Monaghan and Dublin bombings was a regrettably recidivist recapitulation of a viewpoint that, for all its objectionable connotations, unquestionably held currency in the contemporary mindset of hardline Unionist opinion which, at the time of the 1974 bombings, was fuelling violent strike action that would result in the toppling of the North’s first power-sharing executive.

The Paisley remarks are instructive in that they lay bear the twisted thinking that helped facilitate the perpetration of this particular atrocity, and subsequently the collusion and cover-up that have prevented, to this day, anyone being held accountable for it.

The insight they provide might help those in our community with no recollection of the death and destruction visited upon Monaghan Town that day to realise the enormity and significance of the event, and why it continues to matter that the questions it raises have gone for so long unanswered.

Thus considered, these words should be cast back into the dark period of history to which they belong – and given the riposte of a renewed clamour for the full truth of the terrible events of May 17 1974 to at last be told in this year of very significant commemoration.

The wounds into which Mr Paisley poured salt this week should no longer be permitted to go unhealed.

The higher than usual decibel level of some of the noise emerging from local authority meeting chambers across the county since the turn of the New Year is an early warning alarm – an election is on the way!
The local government elections that will take place in May are extremely significant, epoch-marking in fact – they will see the sweeping away of this country’s long tradition of town council administration and its replacement by a new model in which, in Co Monaghan, three Municipal Districts will coalesce into a new Co Council structure with responsibility for the entirety of local administration in both our urban and rural areas.
But our local politicians – at least those of them of who will be vying for the 18 seats available on the new county structure – are surely doing the encroach of this momentous new age, as well as the intelligence of their prospective voters, a disservice by the old-hat nature of some of their early posturing.
Agitating for a pothole to be filled here or a light lit there, or contriving a political row as bait for the local headlines, is surely so last year – have these guys not read Phil Hogan’s new gospel, “Putting People First”?
Old habits die hard, however – some prospective Co Councillors without the advantage of a meeting chamber in which to audition have even been spotted out on the canvass already, when the Christmas decorations have barely been taken down.
Maybe our politicians are making their own protest against the radical reforms being foisted upon them by clinging steadfastly to tradition, a two-fingered gesture of defiance in the direction of Big Phil’s Brave New World.
But it’s a bit early to be at it, all the same!

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