Sunday 20 October 2019

Editorial: 'A light is snuffed out - but leaders at ease in the dark'

Lyra McKee’s murder gave us a glimpse of a hell we never wish to revisit. Photo: PSNI/PA
Lyra McKee’s murder gave us a glimpse of a hell we never wish to revisit. Photo: PSNI/PA


Think of the Troubles in the North and what they brought us. A bleak legacy bequeathed: thousands of victims, including the disappeared; 'innovations' such as the car-bomb; tar-and-feathering; knee-capping; hunger strikes and wholesale slaughter and maiming of innocents. Lyra McKee's murder opened a hole in the fabric of that dark past and gave us a glimpse of a hell we never wish to revisit. All right-thinking politicians would recoil from such memories.

And yet the young woman's death, and chorus of affirmation given to Father Martin Magill's full-blooded challenge to the North's politicians to end the deadlock, may have been to naught, given the responses from Sinn Féin and the DUP.

John Hume used to say if you took the word "No" out of Ian Paisley's vocabulary he would be rendered silent. If consent was to have been the credo for the future, rejection is once again the order of the day. For Mary Lou McDonald has flatly rejected talks on flashpoint issues separately to agreeing the restoration of power-sharing.

Please log in or register with for free access to this article.

Log In

Ms McDonald was back to her finger-pointing best, claiming the DUP had "walked away" on a possible agreement last year.

Arlene Foster was not for turning either.

"I don't accept that the violence of Lyra's death was caused by a political vacuum," the DUP leader said.

"That's not to say that we (politicians) don't bear responsibility because there is no Assembly."

But when it came to getting the Assembly back up? Not an inch, and so a shameful stalemate remains. If politicians were united in grief 24 hours earlier, they were as divided as ever when it came to taking a step forward. The new beginning seems as far away as ever despite the terrible events in Derry.

A vision of a hopeful, progressive, inclusive and more equal Northern Ireland passionately espoused by Ms McKee is still an improbable dream; despite the shows of public solidarity at her funeral. Speaking also on RTÉ, Ms Foster said the service had been "very moving in so many ways". But not seemingly moving enough to effect critical political change.

Ms Foster also said while she sympathised with the partner of the murdered journalist, her party's stance on gay marriage hasn't changed.

"You shouldn't conflate the two issues of empathy and sympathy and a political issue, which is the definition of marriage," the DUP leader said. "We have a long-standing policy which hasn't changed."

As for Sinn Féin? All Ms McDonald could offer was: "Politicians need to roll up their sleeves and get cracking." Again it is up to someone else to take charge.

It seems Winston Churchill's dismissal of the conflict is destined to never grow old: "Even as the deluge subsides... We see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that have been unaltered in the cataclysm."

The North loses one of its brightest lights, and its politicians grow ever comfortable with the dark.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss