29/08/2017 – Not my role to adjudicate but to represent victims

Your (the Belfast Telegraph) columnist Ruth Dudley Edwards, of whom I have huge admiration for down the years as a writer challenged me in her Opinion column published in the Monday 28th August 2017 Edition to acknowledge that “Sean O’Callaghan’s remorse was utterly genuine and that he deserves to be remembered in charity and forgiveness”.

First of all I would like to acknowledge that Ruth as a personal friend of Sean O’Callaghan will feel that she had a better insight into the man than most of the rest of us and I am sorry for the sense of loss that she will be feeling at this time.

Ruth Dudley Edwards has stated that I doubt Sean O’Callaghan’s remorse, that is not the case as I was not giving my own personal opinion in the initial comments issued. But for what it’s worth my personal view (not judgement) on Sean O’Callaghan is that I acknowledge that he provided support to a number of families who are seeking answers into events which led to the murder of their loved ones and I also acknowledge that in going back into the heart of the Provisional IRA and reporting to the Republic of Ireland State that he was risking his own life.

Furthermore I acknowledge that he has also been a critic of the Provisional Movement and its’ leadership over the last two plus decades.

I also am mindful on a human level that the O’Callaghan family and his circle of friends will be grieving his loss at his time.

But I also believe that he was willingly used in the run up to the 1998 Belfast Agreement as a means of softening unionist attitudes, he was held up as an example of the contrition which a former terrorist can show and that he was somehow representative of those who carried out such deeds against their neighbours, the time which has elapsed has proven that Sean O’Callaghan (if his conversion was wholly genuine) was more so the exception than the rule.

I’m afraid that I am not in a position to do what Ruth requests – that I acknowledge Ruth Dudley Edwards has stated that I doubt Sean O’Callaghan’s remorse, that is not the case as I was not giving my own personal opinion in the initial comments issued. But for what it’s worth my personal view (not judgement) on Sean O’Callaghan is that I acknowledge that he provided support to a number of families who are seeking answers into events which led to the murder of their loved ones and I also acknowledge that in going back into the heart of the Provisional IRA and reporting to the Republic of Ireland State that he was risking his own life.

Furthermore I acknowledge that he has also been a critic of the Provisional Movement and its’ leadership over the last two plus decades.

I also am mindful on a human level that the O’Callaghan family and his circle of friends will be grieving his loss at his time.

But I also believe that he was willingly used in the run up to the 1998 Belfast Agreement as a means of softening unionist attitudes, he was held up as an example of the contrition which a former terrorist can show and that he was somehow representative of those who carried out such deeds against their neighbours, the time which has elapsed has proven that Sean O’Callaghan (if his conversion was wholly genuine) was more so the exception than the rule.

What Ruth Dudley Edwards asks that I do I am not in a position to do. Firstly I am not God and I do not know the sincerity or otherwise of Sean’s heart (In fact I never met the man) and secondly, my role is not to adjudicate but rather is to represent victims and their perspectives and feelings.

I have to say this and I do so unashamedly, when Sean O’Callaghan passed away last week my first thoughts and considerations were with the two families of those whom he confessed to murdering – UDR Greenfinch soldier Eva Martin (whose surviving family I know) and also the family of Peter Flanagan (who was an RUC Detective)

The questions I posed within the comments I gave are not my questions, those questions are questions which his victims sought answers to. Providing an account within an Autobiographical publication which is then sold in bookstores does not do justice to the needs of the families concerned.

There will be people who would seek to place myself and Ruth Dudley Edwards at loggerheads on this issue but that would be to diminish the actual debate that isn’t being had. Why is the weight of expectation forever upon the shoulders of the innocent to forgive those who have wronged them? Why is there no call from the great and the good to encourage remorse, repentance and restitutive acts from the terrorists and those who committed criminal acts? And if there is a genuine conversion within such individuals, then the onus is upon them to do what they can to atone for their wrongs.

Each and every one of us in life commits wrong, I too have committed wrong and must account for it and carry it with me. Some will feel that Sean O’Callaghan did what he could to atone for his sins, could he have done more by those he directly wronged?

The reality is that whatever atonement we commit to, we cannot live life backwards, the wrong we commit continues to in part define us, Eva and Peter (and possibly others) never had the chance to live their lives as was intended, those lives were stolen and for the families concerned, they must still carry that grief and loss.

Those within Society who have not had their flesh and blood stolen from them as a result of the so-called ‘Troubles,’ when neighbour dehumanised neighbour need to understand the perspective and needs of the innocent and prioritise them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s