‘Spill your sweat and not your blood’
2019-05-01 17:01:38 -

By Michael McGowan


At the funeral of murdered Northern Ireland journalist Lyra McKee, while Father Magill praised the united response of politicians to the tragic death, he asked: “Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get to this point?”


He said that unless that response is more that a mere gesture, without being followed by positive action for peace and co-operation, the life of Lyra McKee will not have been taken seriously, and the opportunity to move forward and give meaning to the claims of a commitment to work together for peace will have been lost.


Most of Northern Ireland’s paramilitary groups have disarmed since a 1998 peace accord ended three decades of sectarian conflict. But a small number of dissidents refused to abandon violence, and have targeted police and prison officials in bombings and shootings. The New IRA, the largest of the splinter groups, acknowledged responsibility for Lyra McKee’s death, and say she was shot accidentally,


Lyra was a highly respected investigatory journalist and author who has spoken out against violence. Deputy leader of Sinn Fein, Michelle O‘Neill, has hit out at her killers and said those responsible for the murder have appointed themselves to carry out actions which are pointless and anti-peace.


DUP leader Arlene Foster released a joint statement along with the heads of Northern Ireland’s other major political parties condemning the killing, which she has described as “an attack on the democratic process”.


Pressure on NI politicians has grown since the murder, with particular demands to revive the powersharing administration and a commitment to respect and build on the peace process following the Good Friday Agreement.


It is sad that John Hume has not been well in recent years and that his monumental skills, experience, and energy have not been available to help counter those who wish to undermine the Good Friday Agreement, and at a time when Europe is faced with the challenges of the growth of the far right, of populist and isolationist politicians.


From his early days in the credit union and civil rights movements, John Hume was always fearless and determined that self-help and non-violent direct action was the way forward. “Spill your sweat and not your blood,” was his constant message.


When he received the Noble Prize or for peace, he said that if the only thing in life he had done was his work with credit unions in Derry, it would not have been wasted.


I was invited to attend the ceremony at Oslo City Hall in Norway when the EU received the Nobel Prize for transforming “a continent of war” into “a continent of peace”. Then President of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, spoke of the union’s commitment to human rights, to developing countries, to peace and to nuclear non-proliferation.


Irish politicians, diplomats and NGOs have long had influence across the world because of their more informal skills, and as a member of the European Parliament I have worked with Irish colleagues in both parliament and the EU Commission, as well as with Irish NGOs, and believe these particularly Irish skills can always contribute to peace and co-operation.


It was in 1958 in the UN General Assembly when the fearless and influential Irish Minister of External Affairs, Frank Aiken, launched the process which led to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. And it is Ireland that has played a key role through ICAN in placing nuclear weapons on the UN list of unacceptable threats to world peace.


Let the tragic death of 29-year-old Lyra McKee inspire all of us to work together for peace in Northern Ireland and, just like the words of John Hume, spill your sweat and not your our blood.


Michael McGowan is a former MEP and president of the Development Committee of the European Parliament.

TAGS : Lyra McKee Northern Ireland John Hume
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