“I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge”. The softly-spoken words of Gordon Wilson are still haunting 30 years after a devastating IRA explosion at Enniskillen as the Northern Ireland town solemnly marked Remembrance Sunday.
Pulled from the rubble where he had held the hand of his dying daughter Marie, a young nurse, as her life ebbed away in the Poppy Day attack, he added: “Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. She was a pet. She’s dead. She’s in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night.”
Perhaps the most evocative and powerful words ever spoken during the violent history of the Troubles, today’s Northern Ireland is very different to the strife-torn 1980s when the nightly news was dominated by the latest bloodshed. Yet the scars still run deep.
No terrorist has ever been convicted of an attack which killed 11 people – a 12th victim spent 13 years in a coma before succumbing to their injuries – and the prospect is a remote one, not least because of the difficult compromises and undertakings that had to be reached during the Peace Process. The pain still hurts.
However, with Stormont still in abeyance because of the political ructions emanating from a botched green energy scheme, and the prospect that Westminster will, once again, have to impose direct rule, Northern Ireland’s future is less assured.
Even though Mr Wilson passed away in 1995, it can only be hoped that his heartfelt words galvanise today’s leaders not to further risk the political progress made in the last three decades.