Anyone who believes we can just “draw a line under the past” seriously needs to read Malachi O’Doherty’s piece in the Irish Times.
In it, he demonstrates the folly of the (capital-U) Unionist position against the Maze; and the sense of the Progressive position in favour.
That is not to discount the genuinely held views of many victims that the Maze is the wrong place for such a Centre. I honestly take the contrary view, as does Malachi. It is the ideal place, because it would centre not on what people did while they were there, but rather on what they did to get there.
One error some Progressives do make is the notion that “We should just move on”. We cannot just move on, because the biggest political movements (and they are “movements”) are determined not to. Indeed, they base their very survival on re-living the past every day. In particular, Sinn Fein has embarked on a clear campaign to re-write history. Already they are suggesting the IRA won Catholics the vote; that the IRA won repeal of the Act of Union; that the IRA were glorious defenders of civil rights. This is total and utter claptrap – and that it is total and utter claptrap should be written in big letters at a Centre visited by millions.
All Unionists are guilty of pursuing the laughable notion that we can forget about our history until we’ve agreed a single version of it. As Malachi says, we will never do that. It has never been done in human history. Quite on the contrary, Unionists are fiddling while Sinn Fein re-writes everything – on radio programmes, to visiting school groups, at Irish-American fundraisers.
Why does even this matter? Because if we forget the lessons of history, we are bound to repeat them. Already there are impressionable young men who believe that the IRA campaign should be repeated and this time carried on (we call these “dissident Republicans”); and there are impressionable young men who believe that sheer weight of numbers with a topping of regular violence can make “Ulster” a Protestant-only state (unfortunately we call these “Loyalists”, although that is an insult to most real Loyalists). This is why the futility of terrorism and violence when the democratic option plainly exists has to be re-stated over and over again; and this is why the story of the Troubles – of the ultimate victory of democracy over terrorism – should be told at the Maze, and in many other settings too.