BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day

© John Denney 18 March 2005


Seven weeks ago, Catherine, Paula, Gemma, Claire and Donna McCartney were ordinary young women going about their ordinary lives.  But on 30th January, an extraordinary and awful incident changed everything for them.  Their brother Robert, an ordinary young man, got into a fight and was beaten and stabbed to death by a mob of thirty men outside Magennis’s bar, an ordinary Belfast pub.


Once they had absorbed the impact of that terrible event, these five sisters and Robert’s fiancée vowed to see that justice would be done.  So they pressed for arrests and prosecutions of the perpetrators, alleged to be members of the I.R.A.  But the reality of the situation in nationalist Belfast is that there is a climate of silence in the face of intimidation.  For the I.R.A. has refused to disband despite the political accords made seven years ago on Good Friday 1998.  They have adopted gangster habits, running smuggling operations, robbing banks, and laundering the proceeds of crime.  Their members, just like the Chicago gangsters of the 1930s, defy the law, secure that no one dares to inform on them.  This time, they expected, literally, to get away with murder.


Yesterday, Robert McCartney’s sisters were entertained for St Patrick’s Day in the White House by President Bush, and the leaders of the I.R.A.-linked political party Sinn Féin weren’t - for the first time in many years.  The sisters’ courageous campaign has been taken up by world statesmen, and the I.R.A. is under pressures never before faced to disband and cease their gangster existence.  And in a horrifying proof that the I.R.A. hasn’t been able yet to face up to 21st Century realities, they even offered to shoot their members involved in the murder in a wild attempt to avert the calamity they have brought on their movement.


So the sisters’ campaign for justice for their brother may have deeper, more far-reaching consequences.  Maybe it’s the kick-start needed to close yesterday’s chapter of Irish history and open tomorrow’s.  But it will take courage of the quality of Private Beharry’s to achieve this[1].  Evil men, though, aren’t easily discouraged.


What they need is a change of heart.  There’s a bible-based word for that.  Jesus calls on everyone – you and me as well – to repent[2].  It means, “Think again.  Start afresh.  Begin a new chapter.”


So the big question for the I.R.A. is “will they – can they - repent?”  And the big question for you is “will you?”


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[1] Private Beharry was yesterday awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, for saving the lives of many of his comrades while under hostile fire on two occasions in Iraq last year.

[2] E.g. Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3