By John Kelly
The Ireland of the future is all about us, if only we have the will to grasp the proffered baton. The Ireland of the future was there in Budapest, the Hungarian capitol, for the entire world to see when the elated Sonia O’Sullivan, the greatest Irish woman athlete ever, danced around a packed stadium, triumphantly waving the Irish tricolor.
This gave us all a glimpse of the possible future, the image of a new, yet ancient, nation gaining the applause of a wondering world, the sort of Ireland we once glimpsed for some great shining moments when our international soccer squad graced the sports stadia of the world.
It can happen again. In the midst of the worst horror all of this island has shared, Sonia O’Sullivan has proved that from the lowest point one can rise.
The Ireland of the past lies in the dead eyes of little Sean McLoughlin of Buncrana, Co. Donegal. Peaceful now and forever, he lies in his tiny coffin, his shattered head contained within a glistening white bandage, his battered, chubby face a black and blue reproof for the venomous idiots who tore away the lives of 28 people in Omagh and maimed the future for scores more.
Let that be the Ireland of the past. Let that ignoble, vicious history of death and pain, that litany of painful attrition which culminated inevitably in the Omagh atrocity, lie buried with that pitiful little body forever.
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Perhaps, in the final analysis, it is only commingled tears and transfused blood that know no religion that can finally bind the people of this island together. Perhaps only the obscenity inflicted on the gentle village of Omagh, one of the most peaceful towns in Ulster, can eradicate the prospect of further such mindless carnage forever.
The Real IRA, the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, the misbegotten Oglaigh na hEireann, a name stolen from the Gaelic title of the Irish Army, can have no part in the beckoning Ireland of the future. Neither can they be allowed to survive into any part of that future. They are every bit as repressive and Fascist in character as the Orange bullyboys of Drumcree. Their philosophy, along with the diehard opposition of leaders on the "Other Side," were swept away by the combined vote of all of the people of this island in a referendum which has laid the strongest foundation for the future.
There are some republican dissidents who say that it cannot work, that it is merely a further reinforcement of partition, another halfway house solution. That is possible. But it is also possible that it might yet work. And what is the alternative, further bombings like those in Dublin, in Enniskillen or in Omagh. Perish the thought.
Nobody can be bombed into a united Ireland. Even if that was possible, the future unity of the island would not be worth a single life.
Meanwhile, Bernadette Sands McKevitt must be pitied. She is the sister of the incredibly brave hunger strike leader, the late Bobby Sands. He, and his family, fought for what the majority of the people living on this island desire, a united Ireland, existing in peace and prosperity where enforced emigration and huge social inequalities would be things of the past. Because she and her partner, Michael McKevitt, believe that the peace process cannot possibly lead to such an outcome, they formed the "32 County Sovereignty Committee," effectively a breakaway splinter group from the Provisional IRA.
Their aims are understandable. Their logic is firm. But the people of the entire island have spoken. And they have spoken in favor of compromise. They have suspended their most extreme ambitions in favor of peace and possible political reconciliation.
Their collective voice cannot be ignored. Certainly, neither bomb nor bullet, no forced marches, no threats against innocent people living south of the border, can be used to divert the stated purpose of the majority. Any such attempts can only be regarded as being Fascist in nature.
Since the bombing, thousands of floral bouquets have been strewn on the mutilated streets of Omagh. They rest, with the dead and devastated, as testimony to the revulsion of the Irish people.
In 1916, a container truck carried a consignment of explosives away from the GPO in Dublin because leaders like Padraic Pearse and James Connolly did not wish to run the risk of inflicting further civilian causalities. Those men were true republicans. That was the real IRA.
But the war is now over. That is what the people of the island, more than 70 percent of the entire population, has decided. That decision must be allowed to stand. The people’s ballot cannot be cast with flowers of remembrance on streets strewn with any more needless bloodletting. The new Ireland must be cemented, not in blood, nor in hate, but in political agreement. This is what all those who genuinely love Ireland and the Irish people must seek to achieve.
Dissident groups must recognize that now, in the aftermath of the Good Friday peace agreement, the situation has changed. Dissident groups now represent none but themselves. They cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the possibility of an entirely new island with new political structures, an island that represents the diversity of those who share this patch of earth as much as is possible. If they wish to continue to wallow in the blood of the past let them not try to impose that past on the present. Let them not try to kill the possibilities of the future.
The Omagh bomb must mark the final full stop. The killing must cease.