The awful way it was

EVERY now and then the past intrudes on our today. Sometimes it brings a smile, maybe the glow of a happy memory.

Events at Laganside Crown Court in Belfast yesterday fall into an entirely different category. The life sentence imposed on loyalist supergrass Gary Haggarty, who pleaded guilty to five murders, attempted murders and other paramilitary crimes, is a reminder of how awful, how savage the conflict in the North was for so many years. Though sentenced to life in jail Haggarty faces a considerably reduced term because he has agreed to give evidence against former Ulster Volunteer Force colleagues.

Those who lived through those three decades of tragedy will not need to be reminded that it was a period of despair and terrible waste, but younger generations might take pause and consider Haggerty’s life as an example of what can happen when hatred becomes the driving force. At a moment when moderate voices of all hues have been replaced by ever more strident extremists, loyalist or republican, that lesson assumes a particular relevance and note of caution.


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