Northern Ireland

Church support for Troubles 'day of acknowledgement'

Harold good
Image caption Rev Harold Good made the suggestion at the recent FĂ©ile an Phobail and again on last week's BBC Sunday Sequence

Clergymen have given guarded support to a proposal that Northern Ireland should have a day of acknowledgement to reflect on the Troubles.

Various church leaders were reacting to a proposal made by former Methodist president Rev Harold Good, last week.

Mr Good emphasised the importance for all, including the churches, to reflect on their sins of "commission and omission".

He told BBC's Sunday Sequence: "We were silent when we should have spoken.

"There was injustice, there was discrimination, there was sectarianism from both sides. Where there was injustice, where there was sectarianism, we were silent.

"Together across our community we might come together each of us and all of us, from all sectors including the churches and acknowledge our part in the hurt the grief and the pain of the past 48 plus years".

Image copyright Presbyterian Church of Ireland
Image caption Rev Noble McNeely became the 178th moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in June

On Sunday's programme, the Presbyterian Moderator Dr Noble McNeely told the programme he would "need to have more detail" about what the day would entail.

"If that detail is provided as a church, we would discuss that and respond to it," he said.

"As we're called to be disciples of the Lord, we are called to be engaged in peace making, building and reconciliation.

As a Christian there are also times when we have to confess that we didn't act as disciples in a manner we should have," he added.

'Faults and failings'

Ballyclare priest Fr Martin Magill said he had contacted Rev Good to "explore the comments further".

"I know he would be very keen to see that it wouldn't be set entirely in a church context but in a much wider context to give all of us an opportunity to reflect and to think and to acknowledge our faults and failings.

"As he quite rightly says there is a day of acknowledgement every Sunday when there is recognition of sins of omission and commission.

"It is essential that all the different parties work together to choreograph the thing [day of acknowledgement] otherwise it would be a disaster.

"While we remember the big headlines, we forget so much. Acknowledgement has to be about acknowledging all that has been forgotten, all of those people who had been forgotten."

'Suffering clotted thick'

The idea of a day of acknowledgement was also tentatively backed by Methodist minister, Rev David Clements.

While expressing reservations that such a day could be seen as suggesting a kind of "equivalence" between perpetrators and victims, he said he could attend such an event.

Mr Clements, whose policeman father was murdered by the IRA in 1985 at the gates of Ballygawley police station, said the issue was "thorny and difficult".

"Sometimes people say, 'We've all suffered from the Troubles'. On a superficial level that's true but on a more profound level it's not.

"As Marie Smyth once wrote, 'In some places, the suffering is clotted thick'.

"You flip that coin and if we haven't all suffered to the same degree, we haven't all been guilty to the same degree."

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