Tuesday 23 May 2017

A week of two terrorists: One good and one bad

The end of Martin McGuinness's journey absolved the start, and 'we're not afraid' seem the only sanctioned reactions to terrorism
Attacks: Flowers placed on Westminster Bridge, London, after the terrorist incident last Wednesday Photo: Victoria Jones/PA
Attacks: Flowers placed on Westminster Bridge, London, after the terrorist incident last Wednesday Photo: Victoria Jones/PA
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

There were certain reactions permitted last week. Others were not allowed. The permitted reaction to the death of Martin McGuinness was one of sympathy and respect. Unless you were a direct victim, or a relative of a direct victim of one of the many ingenious murders that McGuinness carried out in his day. Those people were allowed their say. And everyone politely nodded and understood that they felt the way they did. They would say that, wouldn't they? They're too close to it, too emotionally involved. They can't see straight about what a great man he was, because they are blinded by their own grief. They couldn't understand that they and their relatives were a necessary part of Martin's journey, and the journey we all took, the journey to peace. They couldn't see the bigger picture. And it was petty to ask that McGuinness would have expressed remorse or told the truth before the truth died with him.

It was all about Martin's journey last week. It was as if we were on some kind of a reality-TV show. And Martin had fit the required narrative. He had been troublesome at the beginning and then he had been redeemed. The news montages at times were like when they show someone's "best bits" as they are about to be kicked out of Big Brother or X Factor. And we were told again and again that it wasn't how you started out that mattered, it was where you ended up. It was pat and simple and it appealed to the simplistic narratives we deal in nowadays.

So there was a compromise forced on us. Martin was a man of war, then he saw the light and became a man of peace. And it was churlish to think any other way. The many things that many different people saw and thought about when they looked at all the Martin McGuinness coverage was to be kept to themselves.

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