Former PSNI assistant chief constable Peter Sheridan today challenged the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) to lead people towards reconciliation in the North.
The now chief executive of Co-operation Ireland was delivering a lecture in memory of former RUC officer turned loyalist killer Billy McCaughey, at the party’s annual conference.
Mr Sheridan, the most senior Catholic to have served in the police in the North, said he could have turned down the invitation to speak but peace was never achieved by taking the easy option.
He said he “would never have been on the same side” as McCaughey but stories suggested the ex-PUP activist had changed and was more forward-looking before his death.
Mr Sheridan urged PUP members to examine their individual contribution in changing attitudes across the community.
“Deep within your own heart, how at ease with difference are you?” he asked.
“What have you personally done to promote reconciliation and conflict transformation?”.
Delegates were told that the North was now interdependent and real leaders must develop trust and help transform the economic outlook.
“One-sided victory is no longer relevant,” he said.
“We must work to resolve conflicts in a spirit of reconciliation always keeping in mind the interest of others.
“If we seek to destroy our neighbours or ignore their interests we will not survive because we are so interdependent.”
McCaughey, who was jailed for the 1977 murder of Catholic chemist William Strathern in Ahoghill, became a PUP activist and community worker after leaving prison.
PUP leader Dawn Purvis attacked the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin over the political stand-off at Stormont.
“’Rome burned while Nero fiddled’ is how I would sum up the state of our political process,” she said.
“While our community is struggling with rising food prices, oil, gas and electricity prices going through the roof and in the grip of what has been termed the credit crunch – the DUP and Sinn Féin are fiddling about, over issues that whilst difficult to resolve, they will not put food on the table or oil in the tank.”