Votes or principle?

SOMETIMES, it’s wise to forget or at least to pretend to forget so that age-old divisions might be resolved.

 Sometimes it’s best to temper memory with optimism and put harsh lessons to one side so reconciliation might be possible. During Good Friday peace deal negotiations, all participants, no matter how intractable, embraced “convenient fictions” so the greater prize might be secured.

The converse is also true — it is important never to forget the past but memory, often distressing and enraging, can haunt the future in a way that perpetuates hatred. Balancing these counterweights is the stuff of grown-up statesmanship.

This weekend, at its ard fheis, Sinn Féin will discuss a possible shift in its position on abortion. In academic terms it will be interesting to see how a party linked by an umbilical cord to a terrorist organisation that, for decades used car bombs as its calling card and murdered thousands, considers the issue. If arguments to protect “the sanctity of life” are embraced a Rubicon will indeed have been crossed. Whether that would be about votes or principle must remain an open question.


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