Monday, 6 September 2010

Northern Ireland Pipe Bomb Disgrace

One of my passions, is Northern Ireland.
As a political historian, I've always had a particular interest in the history of this troubled province - particularly since partition in 1921/1922.

I've always followed with great interest, the slow, step-by-step developments of the peace progress during the 1990s. Indeed, when I decided on a long weekend break after the 2007 Welsh Assembly elections, there was only one place I was going. On May 8th 2007, I was going to be in Belfast for the event that no-one could ever have thought possible - the coming together of Ian Paisley's DUP and Martin McGuinness's Sinn Fein. Having got there I took in the sites of the Shankill Road and Falls Road in Belfast and also the 'Bogside' in Londonderry where the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre occurred. I then managed to get myself into the grounds of Stormont on 'Devolution Day' itself and into the big media tent alongside reporters such as BBC's Dennis Murray and James Lansdale where I wrote my report of this momentous, historic event for the Tivy Side and Carmarthen Journal. There we were witnessing the unbelievable sight of Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair (and sidekick Peter Hain) supporting these two age old enemies come together in the name of peace.
So you can say I've got a vested, emotional interest in the peace process.

I was particularly delighted when Alliance Leader David Ford became the Minister of Justice after policing powers were finally devolved back to Stormont earlier this year. Slowly but surely, the peace process has come together and brought Northern Ireland to a place where it can look forward, and not just look back.

But troubles persist and extremist dissidents remain and look to cause harm to the settled peace.

But surely, even those who disagree with recent developments can not seriously believe that the events that unfolded this morning in an Antrim playground is acceptable?

The unbelievable sight of an 8 year old pupil picking up what turned out to be a pipe bomb from his school yard and taking it into his class today calls into question the very thinking of whomever it was who placed it there in the first place.
Poor Brendan Shannon could not have known what it was that he'd innocently found. I mean, peace process or no peace process, who in their right mind would want to place such a device in a primary school yard? It is a despicable, abhorent act.
I know that the hatred runs deep and the bridges that have been built at a political level can not be built overnight at a community level, but today's news just shows that there are those out there who will still consider the most extreme options to further their tired and unpopular views.

In the article that I wrote after my 'Pilgrimage for Peace', I mentioned a mural in the Bog Side that I saw which read, "The Bogside is your womb, and education is your umbilical chord". No more apt a quote could be found. It is education that will finally break down the divide in Northern Irish society and hopefully, young Brendan and his friends and all the other young children in Northern Ireland will look at what happened today and realise that this is not the way forward.

The way forward, through education, is tolerance and peace, not hatred and war. If Paisley and McGuinness could grasp this fact, then surely everyone can.

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