Denis Bradley, formerly of the Policing Board, was a speaker at the Department of Foreign Affairs Conference in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. He spoke on the theme of reconciliation, highlighting what the two sides were reconciled to and what they weren’t and how the process was not over but could easily end up in a cul-de-sac.He believes Unionism and Nationalism has reconciled themselves to five things:
An acceptance of power-sharing
An acceptance of law and order
An acceptance of all-ireland dimension.
These five points are the basis of a ‘rest period’ for the two communities after over 30 years of open conflict. However, he believes the process of reconciliation must continue so the rest period becomes a permanent period. In terms of what has not be reconciled, he argued that Nationalism has not truly reconciled itself to the presence of the Unionist community. He believes there is a view among nationalists that by being nice to unionists and giving Northern Ireland some money that this will deliver unity. He considers this a serious under-estimation of the strength of attachment Unionists feel to their identity and the Union. Conversely, he thinks that economics will make it more difficult to be a Unionist in the future.
The example he gave of how a process of reconciliation can peter out was ecumenism. He argued it has degenerated into coffee mornings were people are nice to one another because it stopped when it hit the hard issues. One of the hard issues he identified was transubstantiation, something he said only 5th century metaphysicists understood. He highlighted the Church reaction to the celebration of a common eucharist in Drogheda. For the process of reconciliation to continue and deal with hard issues it is up to people to do what they believe is common sense and right and if enough do so the leadership will change its position.
NOTE: No web link, thread based on notes from a Conference attendee.