An event last Friday afternoon at the Holywell Trust in Bishop Street saw two ex-soldiers give their thoughts on their experiences of conflict and the role of the Veterans for Peace organisation.
The well attended lunchtime event saw Lee Lavis, a former member of the Staffordshire Regiment and Dr James Wilson, an ex-member of the UDR speak of their experiences in the military.
In last Friday’s ‘Journal’ Lee Lavis described the treatment of Derry footballer James McClean over his refusal to wear a remembrance symbol as the “worst case of Poppy fascism” he has witnessed.
Now a professional mediator, Dr James Wilson told the audience that a meeting with the late loyalist leader David Ervine in 1991 had led him to become involved in mediation with loyalist paramilitaries as the peace process began to emerge in the early 1990s. Later, this involved work in discussions between the Apprentice Boys of Derry and the Bogside Residents Group over loyal order parades in Derry in the mid-1990s.
James Wilson attacked the “use of the past by politicians in order to get their way”, and also said that the attitude towards conflict here and elsewhere was still embedded in the mindset of the ealy twentieth century.
“Veterans for Peace are different than other groups. Our funding never runs out, simply because we don’t get any and we don’t apply for any. That means we are not beholden to anyone. We are about decommissioning mindsets and are involved in reconciliation,” he said.
Lee Lavis said that the work of Veterans for Peace had largely been ignored by mainstream media, but that new media had picked up on some aspects of the organisation’s campaign. Regarding the role of the British militarun in Northern Ireland he said there were two aspects to it-a conventional war and the propaganda war. “Ordinary soldiers didn’t even know about the propganda war or things such as collusion or shoot to kill.
“We didn’t know that was going on. this stuff happenened at the highest level rather than from the bottom up,” he said.
One comment from the floor came from Eamonn Melaugh who said: “The only thing we have ever leaned as a species is how to kill each other more efficiently.”
The presentation about Veterans for Peace during the event revealed how the organisation hold their own Remembrance Sunday parade each year in London and how they lay a white poppy wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Material about the organisation cane be found on You Tube.