So this is a post I mentally composed a few weeks ago and never got round to writing. Two reasons for this: firstly the ever present list of things to do at school and home which get in the way and secondly and, more importantly, my reluctance/fear about touching on topics which might offend people I know or other readers or unleash unwanted attention and comments from unfriendly strangers. But here goes anyway and apologies in advance if you are offended.
My daughter Kate, now 17 and studying History and Politics for A level, now watches the news regularly (in addition to her usual diet of Vampire Diaries and Made in Chelsea). Recent news events have provoked a lot of discussion and now, instead of just accepting my explanations and opinions as she used to, she challenges me and I find myself rethinking things. This happened a couple of weeks ago after the death of Martin McGuinness and this BBC news report about how he made the journey from IRA commander to Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland. I'd talked to her before about events in Northern Ireland and my experiences of growing up there in the 1970s, but even so she was shocked by the news report and surprised about McGuinness's IRA background. She remembered how a good friend of our family, a second cousin, saw her husband, a member of the security forces, shot dead in front of her as they returned from a night out. This happened up the road from her Granda's house in Ballyronan. Martin McGuinness was the MP for Mid Ulster for many years - you'd see his smiling face on election posters around the village. My own feelings about him remain mixed. Kate's initial reaction was clear - it is wrong to kill innocent people what ever the cause. I agree, but kind of admire McGuinness for moving away from violence. My feelings are echoed here by Colin Parry, father of Tim, the 12 year old who died in the Warrington bomb.
A day later Kate and I watched the news together again - this time the terrorist attack on Westminster. She was upset by this, explaining that it was because she had been on that bridge by Westminster several times herself so it seemed more real. Some of those injured were students on a school trip to the Houses of Parliament: she'd been on a similar trip, meeting a local MP and touring the building last year in when she was in year 11. Again her question was why. What can the man who carried out this attack hope to gain? Apart from notoriety. I had no answers this time. I heard an intelligence expert on the Today programme say that there is an urgent need to work with the communities where the attackers come from and tackle the root causes of radicalisation. Otherwise these things will keep on happening. No amount of security measures is going to stop someone who is prepared to use a car as a weapon. As I write this, a similar incident has just occurred in Stockholm. It is hard to see an end to it. That's what we used to say in NI.
More horror on the news this week with images of the chemical bomb attack in Syria. I covered my eyes; I couldn't bear to see the images of children injured and dying. Kate told me off, saying I should watch; that we shouldn't turn away from the horror. We need to know what is going on in the world. We also had a discussion yesterday morning about where the American response to the chemical weapons attack was justified. No simple answers to this one either.
I'm going to finish this post on a more positive note. The photo above were taken by Kate on our Mother's Day visit to Ness Gardens. The magnolia trees were in bloom. Terrible things happen in the world and we can't avert our eyes. All the more reason to value precious time with family, count our blessings and enjoy glorious spring days like this one.