She was speaking after the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee heard evidence today from Lord Alderdice, Dame Arlene Foster and Mark Durkan on the effectiveness of the institutions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement including dealing with legacy issues.
Carla Lockhart said, “Prisoner releases were not only an extremely painful consequence of the Belfast Agreement, but they continue to have an ongoing impact today. Indeed legacy issues were ignored entirely, leaving a toxic issue which 25 years later still lingers.
Further to that however we also hear people regularly repeat that the commemoration or eulogising of terrorism was somehow a core part of the Belfast Agreement. This is a blatant re-writing of fact which is rarely challenged but is offered as justification and for events which are seen by many people as having little purpose beyond attempting to glorify and sanitise terrorists and their actions.
Dame Arlene Foster was entirely correct to state that these events are not about the past or “remembering our dead” but about sending a message to today’s generation, and particularly to young people that those actions were justified and acceptable. When sending out that message you also cannot ignore that it will be interpreted as at least tacit justification of their actions by those who seek to copy and emulate those tactics today.
There is no moral distinction between the PIRA ‘volunteers’ of South Armagh in the 70’s and 80’s and those who see themselves as ‘volunteers’ of the new-IRA today. The same point stands for those who seek to romanticise or eulogise loyalist terrorism.
That is why there needs to be a real and frank discussion about these events and direct questions both asked and answered of those who sponsor and support them.
When we look at why we have such problems in dealing with the past in Northern Ireland these type of events must be front and centre in that discussion.”