A very personal reflective look at the Troubles

A very personal reflective look at the Troubles Former president Mary McAleese with Pat Hume, filming the documentary With God On Our Side. Pat died in September, aged 83.

When something is a right you shouldn’t have to kick up a fuss to vindicate it, yet it often seems to be that way.

These thoughts were prompted by episodes of Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1) last week, at its best when championing the rights of the vulnerable. Last week there were so many stories of people looking for carers for themselves or their loved ones. There were some common elements – dedicated family members, frustrating bureaucracy and wonderful frontline personnel. Sandra’s story last Friday was instructive and inspiring. She, along with her mother was looking after their ailing father full time. She described how she gave up her career in law for now – an easy decision she said, as he was “a very special father”. She was coming up against a stone wall in dealing with the relevant authorities and in a way, you could feel sorry for the official on the other end of the line – what could he do if the personnel or resources weren’t available? But then she threatened legal action and hey presto she got the care hours she was looking for. So, the resources were there all along, but there had to be a scene or a threat. Another injustice I can’t stand is people targeting the elderly – whether through scams or direct attacks. That same episode highlighted the story of an older woman attacked and robbed when visiting a graveyard alone. How low can you stoop? Do these people not have mothers?

A severe example of elder abuse features on a BBC podcast File on Four – For Richer, For Poorer (BBC Radio 4). I hadn’t heard of these ‘predatory marriages’ before – bizarre and upsetting. The scammer inveigles their way into a lonely older person’s life and marries them cynically to gain control of their assets. Incredibly it’s often the case that the older person’s family doesn’t even know about this, because of the manipulation and secrecy.

If you were looking for more examples of injustice researching the history of partition would keep you occupied for years. Former President Mary McAleese explored this “awful legacy of grief and grievance” in With God on Our Side (RTÉ One, Monday, BBC One, Wednesday). It was an absorbing and very personal reflective look at ‘The Troubles’, asking questions about the negative and positive influences of religion over those years. It came across clearly that primarily it was ‘constitutional identity’, tribalism and distortions of religion that were at play. We heard from a former loyalist paramilitary who said it was his loyalty to Ulster that drove him more than any commitment to God. Similarly a former IRA man was politically driven rather than influenced by Church teaching – at the time the Church was calling for the violence to stop.

We learned how religion motivated so much peace making and “heroic acts of forgiveness” – some of the most prominent examples being Fr Alec Reid and Rev. Harold Good. Rev. Good however thought Church leaders at the time could have done more. The forgiveness story of Gordon Wilson is well-known but I hadn’t come across Alan McBride before – his wife was killed by an IRA bomb in the Shankill bombing but he threw himself into the work of peace and reconciliation with admirable faith, courage and clarity.

The footage from the time was still disturbing. There were poignant moments when we got glimpses of a young Austin Currie, who died last week, during the civil rights campaigns in Derry. The memories of the Enniskillen bombing on one Remembrance Sunday had an extra resonance as the programme was broadcast a day after this year’s ceremony in the same place. Not surprisingly John Hume figured large when the focus was on Derry. There was a touching and reflective picture of him alone in Derry cathedral. One of the highlights of the programme was a rare interview with Pat Hume soon after her husband’s death and shortly before her own – an impressive lady who felt blessed with trust in God.

Towards the end Mrs McAleese had a sit-down chat with three young people – an excellent idea but the group was too small and unrepresentative. There was a Muslim man, another man brought up in no particular denomination and a girl from the LGBT community – interesting perspectives, but where were the practising young people from more orthodox or traditional faith backgrounds?

Pick of the Week
RTÉ One Sunday November 21, 11am

Mass for World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, with Bishop Fintan Monahan. Fr Liam Lawton is music director with Maria Quinn on piano.

EWTN Tuesday November 23, 11am, Wednesday 8.30pm, Thursday (night) 12.30am

The pre-eminent Scottish composer and conductor, Sir James MacMillan, speaks to Kevin Turley about his vocation as a classical composer and the important role that Catholic artists can play in society.

Opry le Daniel i gConnacht
TG 4 Tuesday November 23, 9.30pm

Join Daniel O Donnell and special guests Mike Denver, Caitríona Ní Cheannabháin and Simon Casey as they sing and celebrate our spiritual and Gospel songs.