I have struggled, over the past couple of days, to form a response to the ghastly sectarian murder of Kevin McDaid. Initially my feeling was that I would not write about it at all. Condemnation of a brutal and senseless killing should go without saying and theorising on the strength of a tragic event can sometimes lose sight of the individual grief which it has precipitated.
In the aftermath of murder diagnoses of continued sectarianism in Northern Ireland are inevitably accompanied by words like ‘sickness’ and ‘cancer’. Although these descriptions describe the virulence of the hatred which still exists within our society accurately enough, familiarity deadens their impact. The very vocabulary which we use to express our abhorrence has been worn threadbare by repeated violence.
Setting aside the predictable political exploitation of such events and the apportioning of wider blame, which no tragedy experienced by human kind has as yet been terrible enough to abate, the known facts of Mr McDaid’s murder speak eloquently enough. Its senses excited by the sporting triumph of a tribal totem, a drunken mob descended on a housing estate, in broad daylight, and kicked to death in sectarian fury, an innocent man attempting to prevent violence. All other details are incidental.
Whatever the context, the rival tribal symbols, the loathsome history of sectarian tension, and all the other things which might form a background to the killing, in order to evaluate this incident, it is sufficient to know that the perpetrators murdered a man in frenzied hatred, because of what they perceived him to be. Naturally, the root causes of the hatred should be addressed in time, but it is vitally important that in contextualising the killing we do not allow its evil facts to be occluded.
Alongside the disgust which this murder makes me feel, and anger at the perpetrators, I am also desperately ashamed to be part of a society where such things are possible: its tribalism, its capacity for hatred. It nauseates me that, in the wake of this event, it is necessary for the Parades Commission to make a determination on a band parade scheduled to pass close to the dead man’s home on Friday night. Cannot, for one night, the tribal drums be stilled voluntarily, in shame, in reflection and in respect?