04/10/11 The Reconciliation Problem

Reconciliation Statue at Stormont

Over the last few weeks, dubious questions and statements have been made by Fine Gael and its associates relating to Martin McGuinness and his past. The vast majority of the mud-slinging has come from the south of Ireland.

Martin McGuinness says he left the IRA in 1974. Many say he did, many that he didn’t, but most feel that it is irrelevant to the race for Áras an Uachtaráin. There is a single point though that has not been made. Pundits in the south who attack McGuinness are part of a state that has not fulfilled the layout of the Good Friday Agreement, and for that reason, full truths on all sides will never come out. It is worth noting that crimes on the order of Westminster will never come out, but thankfully we have a choice when it comes to the north.

Good Friday was about reconciliation between three parties. The first, between the nationalists and unionists of the north. Secondly, between the Irish and the British. Thirdly, the peoples of the north, and those in the south.

All are ongoing processes, with huge leaps taken – all but the latter. Reconciliation and understanding between north and south has not commenced outside of north-south bodies. The Oireachtas and Stormont have not been able to introduce both peoples to one another.

How can we possibly expect all truth to come out, on all sides, unless the south fulfills its duty?

The southern government needs to engage, and the south in totality needs to engage. This has never happened, for party-political reasons, or the laziness of the majority of Dáil parties. Only when they connect with the northern and London players, will a timeline, process and legal draft for a truth and reconciliation programme be possible. Will Fine Gael bring this landmark step forward? Will Labour, Fianna Fáil or the Greens do this?

In the south, the pain of many in the north is incomprehensible for the simple reason that there is no thought of it. I, as an Irish person from the north, feel somewhat unwanted, uncared for by the southern Irish. Do they really regard me as an Irishman? Most do, but the government certainly doesn’t. Like the undocumented Irish in America and the indigenous aborigine in Australia, I am largely unthought of, in my northern case, by the southern establishment.

The South needs to engage, there is no ‘but’ about it. While unionists here have a head of state, I have no ‘proper’ figurehead. McAleese brought us closer to having one, but we still stand in Phoenix Park gazing at Robinson’s candle, straining to figure out how we can keep it lit.

If people wish to attack McGuinness on his past, they should do so in an understanding and dignified fashion, in the spirit of respectful debate. Those who wish to unleash their sharp tongues though, they should start by telling their government, neighbours and friends to engage with us northerners.

Those who want the truth must do the same. There’s nothing odd about feeling a wee bit left out.

There is little understanding of the conflict here beyond the borders of Monaghan, Armagh, Down, Louth and Leitrim. It’s time to understand, a time to heal, and a time to turn the wheels towards a future of prospects, respect, sisterhood and brotherhood.

The Dáil is compelled to work with the north, and to understand us as we have done them. We are a hurt people, and the spiritual, emotional and historical anguish in many of us, even those like me who witnessed no horrific scene of war first hand, must be recognized. We have more pain and guilt in us than the south can understand, for now.

Let’s work towards understanding, and let’s educate each other and ourselves on ‘the northerners’ and our frustration at the despicable wall of mud held up against Marin McGuinness and my, our, people. Kenny, Gilmore, Martin, and yes, even Adams, you have a lot more to do.

Leave a comment