On the death of a peacemaker?

Today we learnt that that Martin McGuinness that stalwart of the Northern Ireland peace process died. He symbolised so much how people can change their perspective – one moment a terrorist the next a statesman advocating peace and reconciliation. Coming from a family with deep roots in both Irish Catholicism and Scottish Protestantism I sort of saw it from both perspectives born twixt one and the other. But I was lucky in having what I call a good start. Martin didn’t have that start; he was born in the Bogside area of Belfast, an area which some commentator described someone there as being born to fail as if someone on the other side of the divide was born to succeed. Life then as now can be very unforgiving for some sections of our society. But then he changed, transformed from a raptor to a dove because he realised sometime in the 1980’s that violence begets violence and rarely succeeds in achieving the aims of the aggressors. Does that make him a saint or a reformed sinner?

We see people in history making good of their lives after bad starts whether that be debauched soldier turned saint St Augustine of Hippo, who said ‘God grant me chastity and continence, but not yet’, or the reformed ex prisoner Jonathan Aitken. The point may be that very few examples in life of people who are innately and completely good or bad. As David Morrissey once said ‘ I think where you don’t know where you stand with someone, they can surprise you in their goodness or their badness, and that makes them human’. So in mediations I rarely come across people who are either utterly good or utterly bad; everyone has an element of both; everyone is – well – just human. But it is when the good shines through, through repentance, renewal or rediscovery of our humanity that is what history records and that defines the legacy we leave behind.

I would like to say it’s me draping banners over Tower Bridge or that at least it’s me on the left. I can only say I way there in spirit. More later on language, Trumpism and where goes empathy.

With very best wishes

Kind regards

Anthony Glaister FCIArb

Mediator, arbitrator, and adjudicator

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