Let me clarify
On Friday 5 July a journalist called Jason Johnson from the Sun on Sunday newspaper called for an on the spot interview with me concerning a rumour that Dessie O’Hare was volunteering with us at Darkley House. I was open and honest and said that yes he has been and works to help me in different initiatives. He highlighted the fact that he was using what he called a bogus name. I was aware of Dessie’s intention to use a new name to allow people time to get to know the new Dessie. I have no problem using either name. As our relationship has developed so has an understanding of his need to use a different name in order to build fresh and meaningful relationships. I was not deceived. In order to maintain peace, security and unity of vision within Crossfire Trust I decided to drink coffee with some regular volunteers and supporters who have been impacted by the troubles. I wanted to explain to them in private that our door is open to all and that despite someone’s past we have a calling to deal with the hurt, heal the present and hope for the future. I shared with some of those people my involvement with Dessie O’Hare and also in the eighties with the Shankill Road residents and my prison visits to the Crumlin Road jail and the many coffins I followed, during the troubles, both in South Armagh and elsewhere. Those events represented the whole community and our response has been undivided, treating everyone the same despite political association, religious background or none. We have always been cross community and are very comfortable in this role.
In 2011 when Dessie was getting more involved with us my thoughts were comforted and moulded by meditating on the verse of a hymn sung at one of our Church support meetings. I was so taken by the words that I looked up the author’s name and date it was written and realised that in 1872 Fanny Crosby had a revelation which we need today. The hymn which she wrote says ‘The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.’ It is time for us to practice what we sing and what we believe. All through the troubles I had prayed for Dessie and others like him to find and know the Lord. I’m hardly going to panic now when he comes my way and requires the same opportunities as us all to reconcile, understand and deal with the past. It would be easy to focus on his numerous activities and think he deserves a greater response than the rest of us when dealing with the past. But we have all had attitudes as well as actions that have led to a hostile hurt and in many ways a hate filled society. We simply need to live in love, deal with our rising fears and have the confidence to challenge the past and its hold upon our present peace of mind and community harmony. Many years ago we decided as an organisation that we would not promote the term converted catholic or converted prisoner or converted terrorist as we all need a conversion from sin to follow Jesus. This is why we don’t draw attention to who comes to stay in Darkley House or who seeks our counsel and support or who answers our prayers when we ask God to send volunteer helpers. On reflection, it is quite amazing who actually comes to help others in need. Perhaps those who have been in the pit of yesterday are best placed to live in the palace of today enjoying the menu of forgiveness, mercy and grace.