From an online article in the Guardian by Henry McDonald
Near to where Ronan Kerr grew up is the village of Beragh, home to one of the founding members of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, set up hoping to reform politics but beaten off the streets by the unionist-controlled police prior to the onset of the Troubles in 1969.
Two years later, Paddy Joe McClean was tortured by the British army when the government introduced internment without trial in response to the security crisis. Yet, despite witnessing his peaceful movement repressed and enduring beatings at the hands of British troops, McClean always argued throughout 35 years of conflict that violence was not the answer.
His son, Ciaran, has taken up that family tradition and is standing as an independent socialist candidate in the forthcoming
assembly [council] elections.
Just as his father before him, Ciaran McClean regards republican violence as immoral, futile and counter-productive. He, like the rest of Beragh and beyond, is experiencing the futility of that armed tradition in Ireland with the death of his neighbour Ronan Kerr. “Our little community is in a state of shock,” McClean said as mourners started to arrive in the nearby town of Drumduff where the Kerr family lived.
McClean said the tragedy had been compounded by news that one of Constable Kerr’s brothers learned of his death on route back to Ireland from Australia, having stopped over in Abu Dhabi and checked his Facebook page.That was the moment he discovered his brother had been murdered.
Last April, prior to the general election, I along with the other candidates, was invited to take part in a “lets speak” event in the Strule Arts Centre, organised by the Omagh Youth Council. When asked their opinion on the A5, Sinn Fein, DUP, SDLP, UUP and Alliance spokespersons all said the road was much needed for prosperity. I was the only candidate who did not join the chorus of build the road at any cost. I argued that it would be ruinous to our community on many levels not least an environmental one.
As is usual in West Tyrone, the debate has been turned into a sectarian sideshow in order that the real issues affecting the community don’t get a hearing. If the Unionist parties agreed with the A5 proposal in April as part of a “vital infrastructure capital project” why are they now locally opposing their own government’s economic policy? Both Nationalist parties seem to be hell bent on emulating their counterparts in the south, hoping that Ireland can be united by tar, even if that means the deeds of both regions transfer to the European Central bank. Thus, the green/orange trap is baited with the clear intention of encouraging the community to take one side or the other.
The A5 should be upgraded, of that there is no question. But why divide townlands and people by ruining the natural fabric of the countryside? Tourism is the only consistent industry we have in West Tyrone; we have a unique selling point in not having massive highways blighting our landscape. Large roads in rural areas do not equate to economic recovery, our nearest neighbours can testify to that, even if the current Irish Government won’t. The A5 alternative group is representing the sustainability of the community with their campaign. They are battling against politicians with short-term electoral interests and long term sectarian aims.
It takes courage to do something that is neither popular nor profitable. The A5 alternative group has that courage and deserves the support of our community. Please contact them and play your part in averting this disaster.
Ciaran Mc Clean Environmental/ Labour Activist from Sixmilecross pictured below, bottom right, with members of AA5A on the train back from Dublin after lobbying the former FF/ Green Government
Independent Council Candidate for Mid Tyrone