How forgiving words made a difference

Published Thursday, 08 November 2012
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The open wound that is our past has been visible for all to see in recent days - seen in the hurting faces and heard in the voices of the people of Enniskillen.

How forgiving words made a difference
Marie Wilson, the young nurse who was killed in the bombing 25 years ago. (© Pacemaker)

For them the memory of that bomb 25 years ago is a constant - something that could have happened within the past 25 seconds or 25 minutes.

How could they ever forget that dark intrusion by the IRA on that solemn day of remembrance on 8 November 1987?

For them it is not the past. It is the here and now.

Gordon Wilson lost his daughter in the no-warning explosion and in 1993, two years before his sudden death, met face-to-face with representatives of the IRA on a peace journey he described as "mission unaccomplished".

He felt he had not been heard, but this week the former Methodist President Harold Good, who witnessed the IRA's decommissioning, told UTV that his late friend had "a profound impact" on those he met - that his words had made "an important contribution to bringing us to where we now are".

That information was shared with Rev Good at Gordon Wilson's funeral in 1995 when he sat with a senior member of Sinn Fein, but Mr Wilson never knew.

Just months before his death, he told me: "I got nothing - not an inch in reverse, but my conscience was clear. I had tried."

The emerging story as told by Harold Good suggests something different, and the challenge highlighted again this week is how to bring the scattered pages of the past into one book or story-telling process.

Loyalist Billy Hutchinson told UTV: "We need to get back to dealing with the past...do it to bring about closure rather than doing it to nail people to the wall."

And, now, another paper on the past is published by the SDLP ahead of its party conference.

It calls for a comprehensive process of truth, and says the test for Sinn Fein and the IRA is will they endorse such a process and "support robust mechanisms of accountability".

The document reads: "There are vested and personal interests in State and terror groups who have little appetite for a comprehensive process of truth."

It argues that "London does not intend to lead the argument" for such a process - and that within the IRA, loyalist organisations, police, Army and Security Service there is resistance and attempts to "suppress the past".

"Strikingly, few unionist representatives call for a comprehensive truth process," it says, and the document calls on Dublin "to set as an imperative the task of addressing the past...developed with the full involvement of victims and survivors."

It is yet another political document addressing the unfinished business of the peace process, but will a political approach or paper unlock the answers that are being sought?

The answer to that question is no.

This document will become another jigsaw piece in a picture that doesn't connect.

There will always be missing pieces, always the resistance identified in the SDLP's paper - resistance from all sides involved in a conflict that has too many ugly truths.

But, as a first step, how do we connect the pieces that are there - including the information shared this week by Rev Good as Enniskillen remembered its dead?

How are the pages of that story-telling brought together in a process and place where all can read and contribute?

In the short term this is maybe a more realisable goal.

© UTV News
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5 Comments
Linda in NI wrote (650 days ago):
Vee,it has been said that Gordon Wilsons interview & forgiveness prevented retaliation & saved many many lives such was the tension felt within the Protestant community for the slaughter of innocents that day, also there was a bomb planted near Pettigoe that if exploded would have caused even greater carnage than Enniskillen. Thats probably why they played his interview morning, noon & night. It was wrong what happened to the Travers family but they know who murdered their child the Enniskillen victims probably never will.
WTF in Ards wrote (651 days ago):
@ Liam. Well done for condemning this outrage. Be even better if your community passed details of those involved to the police.....
Vee in Belfast wrote (652 days ago):
Gordon Wilson's understandable grief was exploited by the media. While utterly condemning the Enniskillen bombing, I would point out that Mary Travers' father also forgave those who shot his daughter and attempted to murder him and his wife. (That shooting happened as Ms Travers was coming out of Mass and rushing home to prepare children from Andersonstown for their first confession. No different from Marie Wilson - who was a nurse in the Royal. Also both incidents were the action of the IRA). Mr Travers (since gone to his reward) spoke television to express his feelings of forgiveness. The interview was only shown ONCE. Yet when the Enniskillen Bombing happened, we had Gordon Wilson on the radio and television morning, noon and night. Why did we not hear from Mr Travers and others in the same situation with the same spirit of forgiveness more often?
Iseult in NI wrote (652 days ago):
I remember Gordon Wilson's words to this day, as I'm sure do so many others. His goodness in the face of such evil was amazing, a true Christian gentleman. I hope nothing like Enniskillen ever happens again, but any murder is one too many, is an equally evil act carried out by equally evil people, like the recent murder of David Black. How anyone can plot and plan to murder a fellow human being I'll never know; how does anyone get up in the morning knowing they're going to kill an unsuspecting innocent man that day?
liam in Belfast wrote (652 days ago):
This was a shameful day for republicanism. And as a republican id say the vast majority of republicans across the island would agree.
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