An open letter to Joel Keys

Dear Joel

I’m sure you are reeling from all the criticism( and some adulation) that resulted from your appearance on the NI Affairs Committee.

A lot for a young man to take on. Your reference to violence possibly influenced by those who nominated you to appear in the first place. Those who profit from violence perhaps.

I would like to tell you why I stopped listening to you. It was when you suggested that violence could be on the table. I admire a young man that can be articulate even if he doesn’t hold the same views as I do but when he sees violence as an alternative to dialogue then I switch off.

I was your age when the troubles started and my children were a lot older than you when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. So for most of my adult life I lived in the shadow of the violence around me.

I lay at night as a teenager listening to the gun shots and the petrol bombs going off around the city. I drove through streets that were barricaded with burning busses, I was evacuated on many occasions due to bomb scares and two friends died, one who was coerced into committing an act of violence and was blown up and one an innocent young man carrying out his duties as a Civil Servant.

When my children were growing up I spent many sleepless nights worrying that they would get home safely. We had essentially normal life taken away from us through violence.

Look around you at the families who are left still suffering after almost 50 years. Is that the legacy you want for your children?

When you say violence is on the table. Violence against who? The British Government who negotiated the Protocol, or those who’s aspirations are different from yours? Will you wreck your own area with this violence? Burn cars and properties? Injure police who try to intervene?

Joel, life is short and you’ll find as you get older that using the pen rather than the sword will work better in the long run.

Don’t let your peers end up as statistics. Young men who will end up with criminal records. Go to university, meet others with different points of view but please don’t go down the road of thinking that violence pays. Our legacy would indicate that it doesn’t. It only prolongs the situation.

I wish you well for your future and if you choose the right path I’m sure you could do great things for your community.

Don’t let those who remain in the shadows lead you down the wrong path

By the way I have four grandchildren and I’m hoping that they will never have to experience violence again in Northern Ireland. We all deserve to live in peace.

Sincerely

Ann Allan

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