On March 25th I was in Belfast for an event with the John and Pat Hume Foundation on Building the Common Ground.
His intercommunity event was hosted by the Passionist Fellowship, and I was there to share the profound legacy of John and Pat as peacemakers and pioneers of reconciliation and the inclusive vision of the Good Friday Agreement.
This event was suspended shortly after it started. A local electrician was kidnapped by two men at gunpoint and forced to drive his van, which he believed contained an explosive device, to where nearly 100 people had gathered for the event – next to Holy Cross Church, where a funeral was held place.
As a result, an event on reconciliation was postponed, a man was traumatized and a grieving family was forced to pray for their loved ones in a parking lot instead of a church.
This furthers the cause of the missing community. She defends no principle. It’s a shameful echo of a darker time. A time brought to an end by the Good Friday Agreement and the concerted efforts of courageous men and women from all communities with the consent of an overwhelming majority of the people of this island north and south.
What I wanted to say that day was that the Belfast/Good Friday deal was achieved by all of us and belongs to all of us.
It is for unionists, nationalists and those who don’t identify as such.
The agreement expressly commits to “equal esteem and fair and equal treatment of the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.”
That doesn’t just have to mean tolerance, but genuine respect. It must mean that we recognize that each tradition – unionism and nationalism – is far more than the rhetoric of its most extreme or narrow-minded proponents.
Both traditions are not only legitimate, but can be advanced in ways that are principled and idealistic, ambitious and generous and inclusive.
David Trimble was rightly honored on the side John Hume with the Nobel Peace Prize.
The agreement was not the creation of a community, but of both. The progress we have made has been achieved not through the leadership of one but of all.
And we must also recognize that there is a growing dimension of Northern Ireland that is not defined by national identity or binary politics.
We must listen to and respond to the diversity of aspirations in Northern Ireland and across our common island. In this way we create a better vision for this place, regardless of its constitutional future.
Where we have different aspirations for the future, as we will do, there should be an ambition not to work for victory but for the best and most inclusive version of society that we want.
And where we share common aspirations for the future, for the health, prosperity and sustainability of our communities, we must seize the opportunities we have now to work together to find the best outcomes for all.
This is the core idea of the Shared Island initiative, as the Taoiseach made clear once again at his event with the Hume Foundation in Derry on Friday.
We know that there are real concerns and political tensions at the moment, including over the Protocol.
The EU is listening to these concerns and is responding with proposals to significantly reduce controls on goods moving between the UK and Northern Ireland. We continue to support the European Commission and the UK Government in dialogue to reach an agreement on the sustainable implementation of the Protocol.
Democratic, legal channels are there to address any concerns. There must be no excuse or tolerance for threats of violence or disorder.
The Good Friday Agreement established structures to smooth out differences and disagreements, not diffuse them.
It is up to us to distinguish well. It’s up to us not to think about winning a debate, but about how to find common ground.
That’s what the Hume Foundation wanted us to address. This is what the Passionist community has been working on for years between Ardoyne and Shankill. This is what real leaders from different communities and both traditions wanted to talk about at this event.
They are the people whose voices should be amplified, for they are voices, not of the past but of the future.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/i-was-there-to-acknowledge-peace-what-happened-was-a-shameful-echo-of-a-darker-time-41517458.html I was there to acknowledge the peace – what was happening was a shameful echo of a darker time