21 February 2008 Edition

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Unionist point-scoring doesn't help victims

Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has criticised unionists for the Assembly motion which she said would do nothing for the victims of conflict

Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann has criticised unionists for the Assembly motion which she said would do nothing for the victims of conflict

SPECULATION that the British Government-appointed Consultative Group on the Past could suggest that the conflict in the North of Ireland be officially classified as a war led several DUP MLAs to sponsor a motion in the Assembly this week that this should not happen. The DUP motion was passed by 46 votes to 20.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Jennifer McCann said that the point-scoring exercise by unionist politicians is doing little to advance the debate about how best to deal equally with the needs of all victims.
The West Belfast MLA said she doubts whether the sponsors of the motion really care about how the conflict is described.
“It wasn’t so long ago they were calling on the IRA to say the ‘war’ is over,” she said. “When it suited their political interests they had no problem using the word ‘war’. Now it seems to be a case – like a scene from Fawlty Towers – ‘Don’t mention the war’.”
McCann said that she is mainly concerned about the relatives of all those who have been killed in the conflict.
“Not for the first time, unionist parties, in their endeavours to score points against each other, have brought motions to this Assembly which have more to do with courting the unionist electorate than improving the quality of people’s lives.
“Sinn Féin and the constituency we represent have an entirely different view on the origins of the conflict and the reasons why we ended up in a conflict situation which resulted in so many people losing their lives. To nationalists and republicans, the core problem in this country is partition and the British Government’s historical occupation of Ireland.
“I know those opposite think we lived in a wonderful little place before 1969 and for them that’s their reference point. This simply ignores the reality of the injustices of unionist, one-party rule which treated nationalists and Catholics as second-class citizens in their own country. The unionist parties are living in denial about the role unionists played from partition and their responsibilities for the conflict.”
McCann said that the sponsors of this motion also need to be mindful that the language they use can be “deeply offensive” to the relatives of those on the republican side who lost loved ones who were members of the IRA.
“As far as I am concerned, those who died on the republican side were noble, brave people. I am not asking anyone else to accept my views. What I am asking them to do is respect the relatives of those who died, realise they have feelings, that they are grieving for a lost member of their family.
“I have no difficulty accepting that relatives of those killed who were members of the crown forces are hurting because of what republicans did on them. I would not for one minute consider making remarks which would cause them offence.
“To the relatives of those who lost a loved one in the conflict, war, troubles, – call it what you will – their loss is the same. Will it really matter to the people out there who are looking in and hoping that this Assembly will help them with their problems if this motion gets through this chamber today? I very much doubt it.”

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