RARELY has brutal opportunism been so obvious in the politics of this benighted corner of the island. The death this week of former Life Guards soldier Dennis Hutchings from Covid as he was being tried for the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in Benburb in 1974 has developed into a tawdry unionist attempt to direct the debate on legacy in the direction that they want it to go. That is to say, in the direction of stopping the ‘witch-hunt’ of ‘our boys’. The latest public figure to become collateral damage in this desperate rearguard action to absolve the British state and its servants from the consequences of murder is the Director of Public Prosecution, whose future unionist leaders have called into question because of his decision to press ahead with the prosecution of Mr Hutchings. Calling for resignations is no longer a matter of ethics or right and wrong, it’s merely a ploy. Not content with relying on the poor health defence of the former soldier, senior unionist figures have been claiming that no further substantive evidence against Mr Hutchings has been forthcoming, this despite the fact that the DPP has said that is simply not true. But it is in the callous disregard for the family of the 27-year-old victim, a young man with the mental age of a seven-year-old, that unionism has most vividly displayed its cynicism. In reacting to the death of Mr Hutchings, and in extending condolences to his family and friends, the unionist parties quite deliberately omitted any mention of the man shot in the back by a soldier or soldiers to whom he posed no threat and of whom he was terribly afraid. The conclusion can only be that this was a deliberate attempt to turn this simmering pot of tension on to full boil in an attempt to energise a demoralised and disillusioned unionist electorate. Amidst this deeply unedifying spectacle, the family of John Pat Cunningham have conducted themselves with exemplary dignity and restraint. The statement they issued yesterday on the matter, outlining in cold, hard fact the truth of the case, should be required reading for all of those sounding off so loudly and ignorantly about this case; but it won’t be, because to acknowledge the reality about what was done in that field in County Tyrone all those years ago to a terrified young man, and to acknowledge the ordeal that his family have been put through in the years since, would involve senior unionists coming clean about their behaviour and their motives. The family statement adds: “Many people will have noted that much of the negative reaction to this case within unionism and in sections of the British press has been determined by the fact that John Pat Cunningham, who posed no threat whatsoever, was an Irish Catholic. “It is the status of the victim that has framed the reaction, not the detail of the case. Shame on them.” Much has changed here since 1974, but too much has remained the same.
The small print reads 'Portrait of Northern Ireland' the large print states, 'neither an elegy nor a manifesto'. Inspired by that line from John Hewitt’s poem, the exhibition at the Golden Thread Gallery is headlined as neither a lament for nor a celebration of Northern Ireland. It is, however, part of the NIO Centenary events.
IT seems to many of us of all faiths or none that much of the argument about President Higgins’s attendance or non-attendance at the forthcoming ecumenical service to mark partition and the creation of Northern Ireland misses the main points.
SINN Féin Councillor Arder Carson has condemned graffiti and posters designed to intimidate members of the public and workers at a community pharmacy in West Belfast. The posters and graffiti appeared on the signs at Coopers Pharmacy in Lenadoon last week. The pharmacy was targeted with posters containing misinformation around the Covid pandemic and compared the response of the government to that of the Nazis. This comes after a group of anti-vaccine protestors were accused of intimidating healthcare staff at a pop-up vaccination clinic at the Colin Transport Hub earlier this month.
IF an artist were asked to paint the most beautiful bird they could imagine, they’d be hard pressed to rival what mother nature did with the goldfinch. Not only is it stunningly colourful with its red mask, golden belly and wings as bright as the sun, but it’s got the poise of a ballet dancer and – just to top things off – a voice which makes it sound like a creature from an enchanted kingdom. Yet it is an exotic and extraordinary bird that we have managed to tame, coaxing it into our gardens from its former mountainside haunts. It wasn’t always like that.
A GROUP representing civic society in Ireland – and which has driven the debate around constitutional change on the island – has raised "serious concerns" about an event to be held in Boston College tomorrow (Tuesday), which will feature the British Government’s Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, Trevor Ringland. Ireland’s Future – which was formed in 2017 to facilitate dialogue on the growing debate on a referendum for Irish unity – says invitations to the event at the McMullen Museum at Boston College are misleading as they refer to the "Special Envoy from Northern Ireland to the United States". Boston College's Irish Institute will host the lunch for Trevor Ringland, a former Irish rugby international. The Belfast lawyer has previously been a member of the Ulster Unionist Party and the Conservative party. In June this year he was appointed the UK’s envoy to the US by the British Government. However, the post is independent from the Northern Ireland Executive. At the time Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill described the appointment as "arrogant and disrespectful", while Mr Ringland said he would work "for the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland".