Sunday 20 January 2019

For SF to be relevant, it has to let go of the past

Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald Photo: Collins
Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald Photo: Collins

The first rule of saying sorry is not to ruin it with an excuse, a temptation Sinn Féin's Barry McElduff couldn't resist when he resigned as MP for West Tyrone. The slaughter at Kingsmill was never a laughing matter. Once more Mr McElduff insisted he never intended to give offence. He even managed to bow out on a note of martyrdom as if to carve a small slice of victimhood for himself. "Reconciliation is essential, but that message is not being heard at this time," he lamented.

Curiously enough, making a joke of an atrocity jars with the spirit of co-operation, trust and community that Sinn Féin is purporting to embrace. It is the opposite of reconciliation, and Mr McElduff ought to know that after 30 years.

Those looking to the soon-to-be new leader of Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald, for a signal of a clean break with the past, and an openness to reaching out, will also have been disappointed. Suspending Mr McElduff for three months was a travesty given that SF members do not even bother to take their seats in Westminster. To describe this "sentence" as proportionate or appropriate shows how out of touch she was with the mood of the country, as what Ms McDonald did was crass.

The suspension was another insult and affront to relatives. Just to be clear, on January 5, 1976, the IRA stopped a minibus at Kingsmill, in Co Armagh, massacring 10 Protestant workmen.

Some 42 years later, on the anniversary of the atrocity, an MP made a tasteless joke about it.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said he hoped the resignation would provide an opening of a space now that people will take to look towards reconciliation.

Hopefully, too, Sinn Féin will also take time out to reflect. Can it move forward, or will it forever have one foot in the past?

Why do State agencies have to be forced to work together?

The Health Service Executive and the child and family agency, Tusla, need to work together. Surely this is stating the blindingly obvious.

Yet it took the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, to instruct two State agencies to co-operate in the care of disabled children.

An investigation by the Ombudsman found a lack of co-ordination between these two State agencies was responsible for denying adequate support to a woman who was fostering a teenager, named in the report as 'Molly', with Down syndrome and severe autism.

The woman, who was providing a service to this State, accused the HSE and Tusla of leaving her financially, emotionally and physically drained.

The Ombudsman recommended the HSE immediately devise a respite action plan for all children with a disability.

Following an investigation, Tusla is to undertake a systemic review of the supports and services being offered to children in its care with a moderate to severe disability.

The agencies are to carry out a review of the supports being offered to 'Molly' to ensure she reaches her potential, and put in place any necessary supports related to any transition from her current home.

It shouldn't be necessary for an Ombudsman to tell two agencies to work together. Then again, it shouldn't be necessary for there to be an Ombudsman to ensure people are afforded their rights.

Irish Independent

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