The murders of Corporals Wood and Howes a quarter of a century ago have always been etched on my mind. They were colleagues of my father’s; I was only a mile away myself; there is not a week goes by when the gruesome television pictures do not come to mind. It was an incident of such chilling barbarity that no one who experienced it at the time could fail to be moved by it, particularly not when family members had been luckier in similarly horrifying situations over the previous two decades.
For that reason, frankly, I do not need two DUP Councillors who are not old enough to have experienced the horror of the event as it unfolded to tell me what to think about it. I do not need two DUP Councillors to engage in petty political partisanship over an incident of such savagery. I do not need two DUP Councillors to abuse the memory of two wonderful young men whose restraint and courage are respectfully and fondly remembered by millions, including among people of all backgrounds in Northern Ireland.
Let me, as one who did experience the horror and was directly affected by it, tell them a thing or two about the real cause those two brave young soldiers were here to represent. For it was nothing to do with “Unionism”. It was to give the people of Northern Ireland – whatever their constitutional preference – the right to live under democracy and the Rule of Law just like everyone else in the UK. It was to demonstrate to the people of Northern Ireland the values of common decency and tolerance which had, for twenty years beforehand, betrayed too many of us. Readers will know well which of our public representatives have, in recent months, been standing directly against democracy and the Rule of Law; against tolerance; and thus against the very cause those two young men stood for with dignity and distinction right to the horrifying end.
One of the soldiers had a famous bereavement poem read out at his funeral, which ends with the lines: “Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there, I did not die”. I hope and believe they are both still with us. They will take no solace from petty politicking being carried out so unworthily in their name; but they may rest assured that the real cause for which they paid the ultimate sacrifice will prevail.