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With remembering there is reminding.

Saturday’s public row over health minister Robin Swann’s request for military assistance as part of the Covid-19 response is the wrong fight at the wrong time.

Too many people are dying, too many people are sick and too many others are on the different frontlines trying to save lives.

People are terrified.

The only battle that matters now is for the means and the medicine to push this virus back.


For the republican community, the army is one of the ghosts of the Past.

We all understand that, but that is not where the story ends. There are other ghosts.

Over this Easter period, as republicans remember their dead – albeit in different ways this year – so, people are reminded of the Past and another army – the IRA, what it did and the lives it took.

There are many empty chairs in many homes; these the reminders that come with remembering.


Asking for military help is not returning us to the conflict years but,rather, meeting and addressing a need in the here-and-now.

This is not about street patrols, hilltop towers or checkpoints, but the means to move important equipment and to create more hospital space.

In the dark and in the deaths of now, we should all be able to live with that.


“If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere.”

The acclaimed Irish artist Colin Davidson recently brought these words from Seamus Heaney to our attention.

Since then, the website thejournal.ie traced the roots of those words to something Heaney said at the Dublin launch of a poetry collection in November 1972; his words a reference to the situation in the North at that time.


Think of that year; the worst in the conflict period when ‘Bloody Sunday’ and ‘Bloody Friday’ were but just two of many bloody days.

There were many long winters in those ‘Troubles’ years, before summer showed its face.

Those emptying our streets now, staying at home and painting and chalking rainbows are looking to the summer and for some hope.

They want to be saved from this invisible enemy.


This row over military assistance should be taken indoors.

Sinn Fein has said it will not rule out any measure to save lives.

The issue here is one of consultation – or lack of such. If that is all it is, then it can be sorted out quietly or loudly behind doors.

It doesn’t need to be another headline argument or moment.

It is the wrong fight at the wrong time.

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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at www.merrionpress.ie

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