Over the last few years, we have seen, possibly for the first time in NI, unified condemnation of recent killings from across the political spectrum. These include, the two British soldiers killed in Antrim, Stephen Carrol in Craigavon, Ronan Kerr in Omagh and now David Black in Lurgan.
The above professions in which the above men worked were always controversial, a fact recognised by the fact the PSNI replaced the RUC, the fact thirty prison officers lost their lives in the course of the last 30 years, and the British Army's historical grim legacy in Ireland.
The Black family yesterday requested that no SF representatives attend the funeral. SF attended the funeral of the two PSNI men killed by republicans, it was also wiling to send a representative to Mr.Black's wake and funeral, but was asked to stay away. Would it not have been better if the Black family would have allowed the Deputy First Minister attend with the First Minister to continue the solidarity show that Stormont wants to promote at all costs?
SF has put its neck on the line over the course of the last 14 years. There is a sizeable part of the republican electorate that is disenfranchised with SF, the snub by the Black family will have the splintered republicans laughing up their sleeves at the fact MMcG was told to stay away, it paints a poorer picture of the Black family and raises questions the type of prison officer Mr. Black was, as if this is the attitude towards SF, what was the attitude towards the current crop of republicans serving time, particularly in the context of the current dispute within the jail?
Mr. Black served during the darkest day of the troubles, was a staunch Orange man and now his family has asked the Deputy First Minister not to pay his respects. His death was wrong, reprehensible and deserves utter condemnation, that however does not mean the situation and context in which he was killed doesn't deserve a full critical analysis out side talking about how great the man was and his apparent support for peace.
I feel this should be debated as this is the first funeral of the recent deaths that hasn't had a unified showing. As opposed the funeral of Stephen Carroll where senior SF figures joined government ministers, unionists and senior police officers to stand shoulder to shoulder with mourners at the funeral. If families are to be praised for their open arms and understanding, such as Davy Ervine's, when Adams embraced the wife of the late Mr.Ervine, then a political critique of this funeral is legitimate, without fear of emotional blackmail at raising the issue.