On this day two years ago we had stopped off in Warrington on the final leg of our journey to Coventry. The car was full, the removal men had already taken what was neccessary to furnish our ‘temporary’ appartment and we anxiously awaited the next morning and arriving in our new home.
Warrington was a symbolic place to stop. It had shared in the conflict in N Ireland, being the location of a devastating bomb attack by the IRA in March 1993. Coming in the midst of ceasefire negotiations it was a critical moment in what became the peace process.
This week another ‘symbolic’ moment of that conflict became the centre of media attention. The Police Ombudsman’s report into the Claudy bombing of July 1972 was published. The involvement of a Catholic priest as a major suspect and likely local commander of the IRA in South Derry at the time, has rightly raised many questions for the IRA, the government, the police and the Catholic church.
1972 was possibly the worst year of the conflict and this is the second major report into events of that time to be published this year, the Saville Report on Bloody Sunday having been released in June. 38 years ago…the journey from then to now has been full of suffering and tragedy. And the more we learn the greater the need to develop a constructive process for dealing with the past.
If the people of N Ireland are to journey together into the future there can be no shortcut on a more demanding road – the journey we must make together into our past. At present both the Westminster and Stormont governments, the later including as it does ministers who can shed more light than most on the events of 1972, have no desire to begin this painful process. Yet they delude themselves if they do not recognise that the past corrodes both people and institutions, including government and the church. If we don’t tend its wounds then their poison infects us today and will make us ill tomorrow.