A post On Becoming Empowered Citizens described my sense that Ireland was, metaphorically, in an adolescent place ready to rebel against the authorities such as the church and state, and reclaim the power relinquished to them in absolute trust and obedience for generations. The recent election certainly reflected a beginning.
That spoke to the way we have handled our political response to the economic crisis, however, we proved ourselves fully adult and authentic in our political identity as citizens of the Republic of Ireland.
The high points of the recent visit by the Queen have been well reported. Coverage of the ceremony at the Garden of Remembrance was as moving as my own first experience of it. I’ve little doubt the British head of state mourned the loss of her dear uncle and the British young who served their country. She did so while honouring the Irish who died. The capacity to hold the grief on both sides is born of maturity.
I was pleased and proud to count myself as an Irish citizen most significantly during her visit to Cork. Her warm reception during the walkabout, not possible in Dublin, was a fitting appreciation for her effort to come. The maturity of calling a demonstration not in protest but in celebration of Cork’s Republican past a respectfully short distance away, was heroic and historic.
The peace process is clearly that, a process. We are not all at the same stage of acceptance, of reconciliation or even in agreement. But the gathering at Sullivan’s Quay was a respectful acknowledgment of our shared process. While accepting the reality of the democratically elected government’s invitation, there was a positive assertion of another narrative. We as citizens of this Island – whether North and South of the border each have our own narrative. Respect for each other and our stories is all that is required for the peace process to move forward.
The leadership of Sinn Féin has clearly struggled within their ranks to move their narrative to a place which allowed for the respectful treatment of this particular foreign head of state. Perhaps there is a lesson in that struggle for us all.
The words spoken were clearly well chosen and even well rehearsed on all sides. I believe that will be the way that we move the conversation forward. I would support all friends, colleagues and readers to come together and develop a language for the respectful treatment of each other’s stories. None of us can afford to take offense when it is not intended, nor can we be unthinking in our choice of language.
Let us choose our words carefully, in English and in Irish. Let us choose to be inclusive and respectful of our individual sense of our identities. Let us move forward in a way that allows us to never have to say of this period that there is much “which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.”