Declan Kearney on reconciliation: a longer term project than #AE16

One of the benefits of an election campaign is that the political parties issue written statements reflecting where their thinking currently sits. What is revealing about the current crop is that there is still such a huge contrast in the language around peace and reconciliation from Sinn Féin and the two main unionist parties. Specifically, it is the absence of any desire for reconciliation in the messages of the DUP and UUP.

This chimes with the comments made by President Michael D Higgins at the Remembering 1916 Symposium:

Indeed, while the long shadow cast by what has been called ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland has led to a scrutiny of the Irish republican tradition of ‘physical violence’, a similar review of supremacist and militarist imperialism remains to be fully achieved.

At the recent Sinn Féin Ardfheis in Dublin, it was the key theme of Declan Kearney’s key note address on the Friday night (covered by Alan here and published in full here). Much of the language used by Kearney is now relatively familiar from Sinn Féin although perhaps, more importantly, there are now ample matching gestures that, at times, even as pure symbolism, have seriously challenged Sinn Féin‘s base. The best that can be said of the current positions of the DUP and UUP (to the extent that they are reflected in their manifestos) is that they are consistent in their words and actions. In the DUP’s case there is no aspiration towards reconciliation, in the UUP’s, (to be honest), it is hard to tell what they want.

For his part, Declan Kearney spells out some key issues:

Political agreements must be seen to be fully honoured. Power sharing and partnership government must be seen to work and deliver.  Leadership must be seen to given at every level of society against sectarianism, racism, segregation and homophobia. The north must be seen to be a no-go area for sectarian harassment, bigotry, and all forms of intolerance and discrimination. There should be a fearless resolve to dismantle barriers and build bridges by all sides. Those who want to push the Peace Process backwards, and directly, or implicitly oppose reconciliation should be challenged, without fear or favour.


Which he then sums up in two key points:

Reconciliation is our future.  It is not a new battleground…


…Political leaders should take the lead in promoting a genuinely inclusive discourse on reconciliation, and without recrimination.




I think this idea of a genuinely inclusive discourse clearly echoes what President Michael D Higgins said, in the earlier quote about the need for a ‘…review of supremacist and militarist imperialism…’ (although he conspicuously failed to act on his own words when the opportunity presented itself). This might seem contradictory, but explicitly, both the DUP and UUP demand there be no re-writing of the past. Michael D Higgins is articulating such a view while representing a political mainstream that is every bit (if not more) as aggressively antagonistic towards Sinn Féin as unionism tries to be. To date, Sinn Féin‘s words and actions have been happening in something of  a vacuum, given the failure of the DUP and UUP to even acknowledge their own responsibilities or potential futures in a genuinely inclusive discourse. They might do well to read Declan Kearney’s speech again.


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