A DEBATE was held at the Laganview Enterprise Centre last week to mark the 25th anniversary of the murder of Lisburn man John McMichael.
Mr McMichael was the author of the ‘Commonsense’ document, which argued for a devolved local government based on power sharing. He was murdered by the IRA in December 1987 and a series of events have been planned to mark the anniversary.
The debate was organised by South Belfast UPRG in cooperation with Lisburn Peoples Support Project and the panel included Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, SDLP MLA Conal McDevitt, leading Sinn Fein member and ex IRA prisoner Sean Murray and Paul Clissold, General Secretary of the Ulster Political Research Group.
Ivan Davis, a former mayor of Lisburn and good friend of Mr McMichael has described him as a man before his time in political thinking.
“As we approach the 25th anniversary of John’s murder, one should never forget the contribution he made in producing the Commonsense document and how important that was to the political debate,” said Mr Davis.
“It was, in my opinion, and I remember at that time saying to John, that Commonsense was a document that deserved serious consideration. Sadly it was dismissed by the then joint leadership of unionism and tragically there were hundreds more deaths, including John’s, before Commonsense in various forms some eleven years later brought about a more serious attempt at normality.
“During many discussions with John, the vision he had for the Province was very obvious and he always made it clear the safeguarding of the constitutional position of Northern Ireland must continue to be the first and all important aim and objective of all unionists.”
Mr Davis continued: “Something that John and I shared in various discussions was the real need for what I would describe as representation for working class unionists and it was essential to any sensible person that unionism takes on board all shades of unionism.
“In this 25th anniversary year, what a tribute it would be to John if we can continue to build on the work he started.”
Speaking about the memorial debate, Mr Davis said: “I was very pleased to see the overwhelming crowd at the Laganview Enterprise Centre when a first class debate took place on various aspects on the Commonsense document.
“I have received several good comments regarding the debate and I trust we can now move forward as a community.”
Mr McMichael’s widow, Shirley McMichael, also said she was delighted at the turn out for the debate last Thursday (October 25) and thanked the organisers for their hard work in commemorating the anniversary.
“It was an excellent debate and it was a great opportunity for people from all sides of the community to hear conflicting points of view.
“I would like to thank everyone involved in organising the debate, as well as those who took part and came along on the night.
“It was also lovely to see Republicans and Nationalists there because that is something that would not have happened in the past. John would have really enjoyed seeing everyone coming together.”
She added: “I would like to thank the people who are organising all the events. They have kept the family informed every step of the way and everything is being done with a lot of respect.”
The next event will be a band parade on Saturday, November 10. This parade is open to all loyal order members and if they wish to take part they are asked to assemble at Glenmore Activity Centre from 6.30pm onwards. The parade starts at 7pm.