Derry republicans told it’s ok to be uneasy

Relatives of Derry hunger striker, Mickey Devine, pictured with Laurence McKeown and Martina Andersson at the hunger strike exhibition. From left, Lisa Hegarty, Frank McCauley, Laurence McKeown, Martina Anderson, and Cathy Coney. (3008MM01)
Relatives of Derry hunger striker, Mickey Devine, pictured with Laurence McKeown and Martina Andersson at the hunger strike exhibition. From left, Lisa Hegarty, Frank McCauley, Laurence McKeown, Martina Anderson, and Cathy Coney. (3008MM01)
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Derry republicans have been told it is normal to feel uneasy about the direction of political change.

Laurence McKeown, a former hunger striker and IRA commander in Long Kesh made the comment as the national hunger strike exhibition was staged in the Guildhall last week.

Dr McKeown said he felt uneasy while attending a protest against the murder of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr alongside people who were previously critical of the IRA.

“I attended because I felt it was the right thing to do. But it felt uncomfortable. I was standing alongside people who had often been condemnatory of the IRA. I wondered if they now felt vindicated, or morally righteous, that republicans now joined them to condemn the actions of other republicans. But actually that’s okay; because it’s always been okay for republicans to condemn or criticise the actions of other republicans. In fact that has been the strength of the Republican Movement down through recent decades. Such criticisms were rarely voiced openly, people not wanting to give a hostile media yet another opportunity to condemn those from their own community, but they were voiced nonetheless, and more importantly, taken on board,” he said.

The former IRA commander also said questioning long-held beliefs is healthy. “It’s ok to feel uncomfortable or uneasy at times because that way you know you’re being challenged. It makes you more thoughtful, more reflexive, self-critical of your deeply-held opinions and assumptions. Feeling uncomfortable or uneasy is much better than someone else feeling grief,” he said.