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Genuine reconciliation requires full community support - Kearney

16 April, 2015


Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney said today that achieving genuine reconciliation will require the active support and participation of all the community. 

Speaking at the launch of the Sinn Féin/An Phoblacht book 'Uncomfortable Conversations’, Mr Kearney said; 

"Irish society has moved beyond war and conflict, even though its legacy casts a long shadow.

"The time has come for us all to develop reconciliation, promote healing, and to embrace forgiveness.

"That challenge will itself bring both difficulty, and possibly even new forms of hurt. Courage will be required and comfort zones will have to be abandoned.

"Reconciliation and healing represent our only future.

"It is a vision which can be inspired with important deeds and gestures.

"Yet single moments or events, no matter how symbolic, are also not enough in themselves.

"The successful development of a reconciliation process in this society will depend upon a critical mass of our community actively supporting the pursuit of reconciliation and healing.

"While reconciliation is a process, it still needs to be supported by strategy.

"Good will needs to be harnessed and then actively mobilised to ensure the vision of reconciliation is not simply a theoretical ambition, and is instead anchored in an unstoppable, forward momentum."

FULL TEXT OF DECLAN KEARNEY'S SPEECH

Seventy years past on the 13 and 14 February the city of Dresden in Germany was bombed.

It was one of many horrific events which occurred during the carnage of World War Two.

All wars inflict carnage and suffering.

A play has been recently written about that particular episode in European history by Philip Orr called “After Dresden”.

Two nights ago I came across a preview of this play by Steve Stockman. 

Steve wrote;

“Together the central characters ask each other the painful questions – Is forgiveness possible?  How does reconciliation happen? And can we ever recover the truth about the past?  It is more important than ever that we address these issues in a society that still has not healed.”

There is no distinction to be drawn between the carnage and suffering resulting from wars.  Nor can any war be romanticized.

Irish society has moved beyond war and conflict, even though its legacy casts a long shadow.

The absence of war however, is not in itself enough.

The time has come for us all to develop reconciliation, promote healing, and to embrace forgiveness.

That challenge may itself be both difficult, and perhaps even painful.

Courage will be required. 

Comfort zones will have to be abandoned.

My friend, Mitchel Mc Laughlin in recent years, summed up what we face, in a phrase he coined, with his own inimitable prescience;

 “Peace will come when we love our children more than we hate our enemies”.

This much is clear; reconciliation and healing represent our only future.

It is a vision which can be inspired with important deeds and gestures.

Examples of leadership are demonstrated when individuals or sides take hugely important risks to build new relationships: just as some in this room have done. 

Yet single moments or events, no matter how symbolic, are also not enough in themselves.

They are important sign posts for our overall direction of travel, and must be built upon.

Some still oppose a shared future, and prefer endless recrimination to seeking reconciliation. 

A minority believe that reconciliation is a battlefield.

However, these mind sets belong to the past.

The successful development of a reconciliation process in this society will depend upon a critical mass of our community actively supporting the pursuit of reconciliation and healing.

Whilst reconciliation is a process, it still needs to be supported by strategy.

Good will needs to be harnessed and then actively mobilised to ensure the reconciliation vision is not simply a theoretical ambition, and is instead anchored in an unstoppable, forward momentum.

I have argued for a popular, public discourse on all these issues across society through what have been described as “uncomfortable conversations”. 

This can also serve as an enabling process for us to try collectively try and answer the questions posed by Steve Stockman, about forgiveness; how reconciliation can happen; and how, we make compromises with our history to secure the future.

The collection of articles contained in this book, and first published in An Phoblacht, is a snap shot of the type of dialogue and range of issues with which all sections of Irish society need to engage.

Those who have shared thoughts, hopes and challenges on our present and future, through their contributions to An Phoblacht, deserve our thanks.

I hope this book will serve as a resource to encourage, guide and sustain more widespread engagement on the development of a new phase of the Peace Process; one which is based upon authentic reconciliation, reconstruction and a fair recovery.

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