My life has been blessed. The nearest I’ve come to the death of a loved one in the Troubles was in the Omagh bomb, where a distant cousin died. So I can’t begin to understand how much pain families feel when a family member is killed through the wanton violence of others. Nor can I understand what consolation there is when those responsible, years later, apologise for what happened. David Cameron’s statement in the British House of Commons regarding Bloody Sunday was seen by some as a triumph at the end of a long struggle. As an outsider, I could see neither justice nor triumph.
The death of 12-year-old schoolgirl, Majella O’Hare, is the latest to receive a belated apology. She was shot twice in the back by a British soldier in Whitecross, South Armagh, in 1976, as she was on her way to Confession. The soldier involved lied that an IRA gunman had been involved and got off; now it’s accepted that he lied and Owen Paterson, the British Secretary of State, has apologized.
The reaction of Majella’s brother Michael is interesting: “It has been a long time coming. It still does not avoid the fact that Majella is dead as a result of their actions”. I call that an understatement. Think about it. A defenceless child is shot dead. The murderer lies about what happened. Thirty years elapse, an apology is at last issued but there is no question of the killer, whose job was to protect not slaughter, being punished. How can anyone speak of justice, closure or the like?
Some people might see Michael O’Hare’s response as not sufficiently grateful. In the circumstances, I find it massively forgiving.