We should never forget the words of Gordon Wilson

“She held my hand tightly, and gripped me as hard as she could. She said, ‘Daddy, I love you very much.’ Those were her exact words to me, and those were the last words I ever heard her say.”

So recalled the late Gordon Wilson as he watched his daughter lying critically injured under the rubble in Enniskillen, in an era which seems like it was thousands of miles away and hundreds of years ago, but which in reality just happened a few hours up the road 30 years ago this week.

A lot has been written and said about Enniskillen over the past few days, and the more you hear, the harder it is to realise that this and all the other atrocities took place on this island in our lifetime.

For the younger generation, it seems like something from the history books, viewed the way we viewed our history readings of Home Rule, Gladstone, 1916, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s demise. We would like to think that history is more than just a school subject, but a process whereby we learn the mistakes of those in the past and avoid these errors to ensure a brighter future.

But if history tells us anything, it is that it repeats itself, it is cyclical and often acts as a recruitment centre for the bad history that is yet to be created.

We do live in dangerous times at the moment, we live in times when people think nothing about seizing some facet of their identity and using it to highlight its difference with others. Across the world, there has developed a Them and Us. In the US, in the UK, even here in Ireland, an intolerance of difference can be detected.

The creation of the EU lulled us in to a false sense of security that Europe would never know wars again; but the genocide of the Balkans quickly dispelled that notion. The extreme results in some elections in recent years have also seen us for some reason or other left at the behest of some people who are not suitable to lead. But yet who have been chosen to lead.

However, history is created by people and events. These people are also cyclical and there will be the good, and the bad, the reasonable and the obnoxious. But as a core of society, we have to be able to protect ourselves from the wavering of the extreme views at all times.

30 years on, hearing the words of Gordon Wilson describe the last moments of his daughter’s life are painful, heartbreaking, and disturbing. We owe it ourselves and our children and their children to read those words so that reason will prevail in the face of intolerance. So that the middle will hold when those at the edges wish to bring it this way and that. True progress is only possible when you bring all the people along, swayed by the arguments of reason and not the threats of fear.

In this regard, we need to think more like Gordon Wilson. We need to develop a basic trust of each other to face down those who wish to rush headlong into conflict.

It is our duty to remind ourselves of the horrors that took place so that we do all we can to keep this island a safe place. And we all do that by just showing empathy for those we meet everyday. Let us walk in each other’s shoes.


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