Contrasting ways of accepting the past were seen this week when two mass murderers, suffered very different fates.
Military authorities in Zimbabwe have granted Robert Mugabe immunity from prosecution.
Mugabe, who ruled the country with an iron grip for 37 years, resigned on Tuesday.
He was directly responsible for thousands of deaths and the destruction of his country.
Ratko Mladic, the Butcher of Bosnia, was sentenced to life imprisonment after he was found guilty on 10 charges, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims which was the worst atrocity in Europe since WWII.
A UN judge said the former general and his troops had carried out crimes that “rank among the most heinous known to humankind”. Mladic, 74, was found to have “personally directed” the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, which killed more than 11,000 people and was the longest such ordeal inflicted on a capital city in modern history.
Mladic has, like our executed 1916 leaders, been transformed into a martyr, but Mugabe has been sidelined to live out the rest of his days in a babbling irrelevance.
Both of these decisions are easily justified but one requires some courage and a lot of generosity; the other requires little more than an Old Testament view of justice.
One seems to offer a better tomorrow; the other hardening hatreds.
The lesson for Ireland seems obvious enough.
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