There should be wariness about loyalist paramilitaries attempting to take a leading role in commemorating the Somme, either through erecting flags or other initiatives. Many of those who died during the battle came from working class areas of Ulster, but that’s where any similarity with modern paramilitary groups ends. While loyalists may be well-meaning, they are demeaning the memories of soldiers in the 36th Ulster Division, by trying to link it to their organisations.
Our society broke down in the 1960s and, for that reason, young men and women who would have otherwise been law-abiding did sometimes become involved in paramilitarism.
It blighted their lives, caused tragedy for nearly 3,000 families whose loved ones were murdered, injured thousands of others and destroyed countless communities.
Through the peace-process, those who were caught up in paramilitaries were offered a second chance.
Prisoners were released and the likelihood of victims of terror receiving justice for other crimes diminishes with each passing year.
They have shown tremendous grace, and yet they have not seen paramilitary organisations disband completely or apologise properly for their actions.
Loyalist paramilitaries should reflect on this recent history, as well as the effects of linking the damage their organisations caused with soldiers from the 36th Ulster Division and other soldiers from Ulster.
Ensuring their organisations take a step back from these commemorations might go some way to recognising the grace bestowed on them by so many and might begin to help heal some of the hurt of the past.
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