Towards 2016

During the course of the next number of months celebrations will commence marking the centenary of the 1912 signing of Ulster’s Solemn League and Covenant. Despite the passage of one hundred years, both traditions on this Island will look back to this and other events over the next decade with different feelings about what these events ignited and what they mean to people today. It is somewhat surprising, that having spent much of the past twenty years ending the conflict, we have not made the same effort at cementing the reconciliation that the next ten years would allow us to do if managed properly. So I do hope that we will take the events like the Covenant, or the Rising or the Somme and remember together that this is our shared history, and that we have learned from the mistakes of previous generations, who may have set the tone for much of our past but who don’t necessarily have to set the tone for the future.

In this regard I sincerely hope that we can use the 1916 celebration as a positive expression of true Republican values (free from blood, semtex and ink) and the philosophy that underpins it. Let us guard against the possibility of using it for the restatement any narrow ethno centric nationalism that will only serve to divide people. If the Republic that was declared in 1916 is to mean anything then it must show that we are citizens of differing traditions, devoted to the creation of equal opportunity, respectful of each other’s differences, and most importantly aware of our obligation to one another as fellow citizens. We who live on this Island of Ireland are small in number and while we may be connected to every other part of the globe through our Diaspora, we only have each other to depend on in facing the challenges today and ahead. So let’s make 2016 the year of the responsible citizen, responsibility to one’s family, community, country and most importantly to our fellow citizens.

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