When the Republic play Italy at Euro 2012 it will be a chance for all of us to reflect on our past and its victims, says Trevor Ringland

Trevor Ringland
Belfast Telegraph
15 June 2012

In common with many others on this island, I remember well June 18, 1994. The Republic of Ireland’s win over Italy in the World Cup was fantastic and gave all of us a tremendous boost. All of us that is, except those who walked into the Heights Bar in Loughinisland and sprayed it with bullets killing six people and seriously wounding five others.

As news of this atrocity filtered through I remember sitting in my kitchen in tears at the thought of such devastation to the lives of so many.

So it is appropriate that, as the Republic of Ireland are playing Italy in Euro 2012 on the same date 18 years later, the Irish players, together with the rest of us, remember the tragedy of those lives destroyed by that evil and horrendous act.

As we do so it is also important we recognise that the same date brings back memories of loved ones lost to others as a consequence of the breakdown in our society during the madness of what we call our Troubles.

As part of the group tasked with developing and promoting a Day of Reflection (June 21 each year) with Healing Through Remembering, one of the statistics highlighted by our research was that there was no single day in the calendar year that someone did not die as a result of the conflict emanating out of Northern Ireland.

The book Lost Lives records that as well as those murdered in Loughinisland on June 18, 1994, there were others in different years:

• 1972: three soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders, Arthur McMillan, Colin Leslie and Ian Mark Mutch were killed by an IRA bomb planted in a house near Lurgan.

• 1974: John Harrison Forsythe, a police officer was killed by an IRA bomb near Lurgan.

• 1976: Robert Craven was killed by a UVF bomb in Conway’s Bar on the Shore Road in Belfast.

• 1982: Albert White, a former member of the RUC was shot by the IRA in Newry.

• 1985: William Robert Gilliland, a police officer died as a result of an IRA landmine explosion in Fermanagh.

As we look to the future and work to ensure that we never again revisit those dark days, it is appropriate that the Republic of Ireland football team remember those who lost their lives and coupled with the memory of all those for whom June 18 is also a day of sadness together with the waste of life of so many others who died as a result of the Troubles.

We cannot undo the past but we can ensure that we do not repeat it. The counter to what happened that night is the building of relationships. It is of paramount importance that we take every opportunity to do so.

The action of the FAI over the eligibility of players has had the effect of alienating a significant number of Northern Ireland football fans, such as me, from the team.

So as my contribution to building a shared future in Northern Ireland and on this island, made in memory of those murdered in Loughinisland in 1994 and on this island I will support the Republic of Ireland in Euro 2012 (as well as England, as my English nephews and nieces would never forgive me if I did otherwise) and I would encourage all Northern Ireland football fans to do the same.

After all, some things are more important that football.

We cannot undo the damage that was done to too many in our society but we can make sure that it never happens again and that we never revisit the horrors of the decades of violence.

There are a number of challenges that we can meet to ensure that we build a shared and better future for all, where people work together for their mutual benefit.

We can develop an inclusive sense of identity; we can bring out the Christianity in our religion; we can promote constructive1 politics, and we can tackle the socio-economic factors and divided structures that blight our society.