Changed thinking can be painful






Buddhism, I’m told, claims that all human suffering derives from a human resistance to change. If that’s true, this morning’s Irish Times contains two articles which might call for a bit of Zen Buddhism before reading.

The first is headed “Old IRA disappearances ‘off the scale’ compared with PIRA”. A research project by Dr Andy Bielenberg of UCC finds that there were almost four times more people ‘disappeared’ in Cork alone by the old IRA than were by the Provisional IRA in the entire period of the Troubles.

This finding has the potential to create a lot of pain. Clearly loved ones of those who were disappeared, whether in Cork or in the north, will feel deep sadness at the thought of their loved one’s fate. But it will also cause much frustration and heartache to those who have always used the case of the disappeared, particularly of Jean McConville, with which to highlight the uniquely cruel nature of the Provisional IRA. There has always been a lesson preached south of the border, and great numbers of the congregation there have internalized it: the IRA in the more recent Troubles disgraced the name of republicanism as it manifested itself in the Black and Tan war/ the War of Independence. My own mother-in-law, God be good to her, was known to murmur when the subject was broached “Ah, but the old IRA were nice.”

The second item that may well disturb non-practising Buddhists among The Irish Times readers is one titled “Fianna Fáil and SDLP in negotiations over merge”.  This is not a new story but its realisation appears to be coming nearer b the day. Apparently at first Micheál Martin’s party will field their own candidates in northern elections, but in a way that’ll be supportive of the SDLP; then a year or two later, the SDLP will be absorbed into Fianna Fáil. 

This will be indeed change. The prospect of being hanged concentrates the mind wonderfully and the prospect of being swallowed must do the same. Some in the SDLP may welcome the moment when Fianna Fáil puts them out of their misery; but a considerable number, I would guess, will wonder what good Fianna Fáil coming north will do. It’ll certainly change things, and Sinn Féin will no longer be the only party organised on an all-Ireland basis. Whether people who are currently voting Sinn Féin will abandon them to rally to Micheál is another matter. But it’ll mean serious change, and that will require the tranquillity of the Buddha himself to cope with. Still, better to be swallowed up than die by inches








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