Reconciliation and respect

 

Sir, – I was taken aback to read in the obituary of the very wonderful 99-year-old Dr Mona Campbell (“Pionering Belfast GP”, November 21st), “Although from a unionist family, she hated sectarianism.”

Oddly, I have never read an obituary in The Irish Times which stated: “Although from a nationalist family, she hated sectarianism.”

Dr Campbell was clearly a very impressive free thinker. However the implication that most people from a “unionist family”, whatever that means exactly, are sectarian, is an unacceptable proposition.

As a medical student at Queen’s University Belfast from 1975, having attended segregated Christian Brothers schools for 14 years, my life was greatly enhanced by meeting Protestants (and unionists). Many had attended (partially) mixed schools. A few were sectarian; the vast majority – in the context of a campaign of vicious sectarian violence by the IRA – were not.

I also met many Catholics (and nationalists). A few were sectarian; the vast majority – in the context of a campaign of vicious sectarian violence by the UVF/UDA – were not.

The single most important challenge facing the leaders of Irish society remains that of bringing about a genuine reconciliation of the Irish people. Reconciliation can only be based upon mutual respect. Sadly, that respect continues to be some way off. – Yours, etc,

Dr PHILIP McGARRY,

Belfast.