Sunday, November 05, 2006

Montague : That Didn't Fly

So the suggestion of being nice to one another didn't fly huh? I suppose that tells us something. Warning: I am not in the best of moods tonight, having had to bathe a skunked dog for the second time this week. I thought corgis were supposed to be smart. Anyway...

Despite best efforts in places, this whole blog has degenerated into a reflection of the divide in our township. Now, this is good in parts: it's a safe place to let the debate take place. It airs the issues out, even if no resolution takes place. I'm not sure I expected to become a lightning rod for the whole thing and there are times I wish I'd never got into this in the first place.

Today, I was thinking about another great divide and seemingly intractable dispute that was a very real part of my life in the past. I had a number of encounters with the IRA back in the day. When I was about 13, I missed the bombing of Harrods by a matter of 90 seconds or so. A policeman stopped me from exiting the Underground by the entrance opposite the car bomb. I turned around and walked back underground. That policeman most likely died. Later, as a student in a military college we had to deal constantly with the security threat. As a naval reservist I had to search under my car whenever I was out in uniform. I was personally acquainted with one of the military musicians who lost their lives when the IRA bombed the Royal Marines School of Music.

All of which is to say that I wasn't a huge fan of the IRA or Irish Republicanism.

However, Northern Ireland is on the way to peace. A final settlement of the whole issue is within reach. How did we get there? The whole thing started with a few courageous people, who recognised that they had to get out of the spiral they were in. It took courage on the part of the British government to open a dialogue with the IRA, in secret. It took perhaps more courage for members of the IRA leadership to begin to push their members into a peaceful approach. Above all, it took people who could rise above the events of the past and make decisions based not on where they'd been, but on where they needed to go.

Our little community is as divided as sectarian Ireland ever was. So the question becomes, who will have the courage to overlook the past and look at the future? Who will talk with the other 'side' in good faith? Who will get over their own pride and their own wounds? Who will put their agenda to one side in the greater interest of the community?

This election is going to be about the divide, like it or not. So when you vote, think about how the individuals you're voting for have handled themselves and the issues. Don't think about the group or affiliation so much as the individual, because it's the individual who's going to be in council and who's going to make a difference. Pick someone you honestly believe can rise above old issues and who can really heal the community. Pick someone who will listen more than they talk. Pick someone who might just be able to put their pride to one side and make things better.

Look at performances in the all-candidates. Who's mind is closed? Who showed they can listen? Will you step back from your own knee-jerk reactions about someone's affiliation and look honestly at how they handled themselves as an individual?

This election could put us on the path to healing, or it could cement the division for several decades. Choose carefully. Sometimes, when we are honest, someone can earn our respect even though we disagree profoundly. He led a movement that killed my friends and fellow servicemen; he nearly killed me. But I respect Gerry Adams, because in the end he was able to recognise the futility of IRA terrorism, he took the massive risk of talking to the British, and he led Republicans into the peace process.