Ideas for a new Ireland: ‘I pray for an Ireland free of sly bucks on the make’

New Ireland: Jimmy Nesbitt, Fergal Keane, Síona Cahill (top row), Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, Adrian Dunbar and Hazel Chu
Politicians, civic leaders and public figures imagine the Ireland they would like to see in the next 100 years

The year 2021 is the centenary not just of the foundation of Northern Ireland but also of the creation of both jurisdictions on this island.

One hundred years on, Ireland finds itself again in a time of flux and change, with major conversations ongoing about the nature and identity of both states, the relationships between them and even the nature of the constitutional arrangements on this island.

The Irish Times asked politicians, civic leaders and public figures to imagine the next 100 years for this island – to consider the type of Ireland they would like to create, as well as how it might be achieved.

Ideas could be as big as the complete remaking of both states – or the forging of a completely new one – or a small change that would make a great difference to people’s lives.

Just pretend, for a moment, that there are no boundaries to ambition, and no practicalities to curtail it. Instead, imagine Ireland.

I pray for an Ireland free of sly bucks on the make

FERGAL KEANE
BBC special correspondent and writer
The surest bet about historical predictions is that they are never a good bet. Who could have persuaded the Edwardians that they were lurching to the calamity of the Great War?

One hundred years from now will my great grandchildren be looking back with fondness and gratitude at the generations who preceded them, praising our foresight and willingness to plan and make sacrifices – not of the traditional martyrdom variety – and enjoying the fruits of a tolerant social democracy?

Or will they be cursing the day we and our children were born? It is of course possible that indifference will reign, but I doubt it. The art of being allowed to not give a damn vanished with the onset of social media.

Fergal Keane. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty
Fergal Keane. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty

The choices we face are momentous: on climate, equality and Irish unity. A storm-blasted, barren island, where a shrinking band of ‘haves’ build high walls to keep out the ‘have nots’, and the toxic static of sectarian hatred crackles up north, endlessly threatening violence, is the dystopian possibility if we keep blundering on.

We can no longer assume that somehow all will be grand. ‘It’ll all be grand’ is finished as a guiding philosophy of Irish life.

I am shaped by my experience of failed states, by witnessing the consequences of climate change in Africa, by decades reporting on sectarian and ethnic conflict.

I fully accept it is possible that I am biased in the direction of pessimism. I prefer to think of it as a healthy wariness about the belligerent frailties of humankind.

So rather than predict, I pray – for an Ireland free of sly bucks on the make, of hard men who know where the bodies are buried but will not say, of history rewritten to spare the blushes of propagandists, of cheap sectarianism constantly looking for a space to poison, of complacency and greed leavened with occasional outbursts of compassion. Such basic freedoms wouldn’t be a bad start.

I am leaning towards a federal or provincial approach to unification
 

ADRIAN DUNBAR
Actor
In 100 years and much less I expect Ireland to be unified and at peace with herself. Irish unification and freedom after hundreds of years is in our DNA, it is in effect a big part of who we have become to ourselves and the world.

Being a lover of Irish rugby, I am leaning towards a federal or provincial approach to unification. The cities of Cork and Galway are both at exciting stages of development and primed for regional assemblies.

Belfast would of course run Ulster from Stormont and perhaps with the Leinster regional base in Kilkenny; Dublin would remain the focus of all our ire.

I believe that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will have merged and Sinn Féin will be the main party if they adhere to forward-thinking ideas.

Adrian Dunbar. Photograph: Steffan Hill/BBC
Adrian Dunbar. Photograph: Steffan Hill/BBC

At the moment I think they are the only party that has a chance of delivering the Republic promised by Connolly, Clarke, Mac Diarmada and Pearse. The Green Party however will be power brokers and voting for them now seems appropriate.

With unification comes responsibility. I remember going to see the great Joshua Nkomo in Bulawayo many years ago. Our contact came back to say Josh wasn’t in and his wife was sitting out the back in the sun with her women friends shelling peas and drinking beer.

“Don’t bring those people in,” she said. “If they see us sitting around drinking beer and shelling peas they will think we don’t know what to do with our independence!”

It will be important that we know what to do with our independence; sitting in the sun and shelling peas is not an ignoble pursuit.

By the way, if we get our provincial republic, we in Ulster will want Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan back. I look forward to a time when we can travel again from Virginia to Ballycastle without leaving Ulster.

A state where the people are cherished, as enshrined in the 1916 Proclamation

SARA CANNING
Activist and partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee
When I imagine future Ireland, it will have escaped the constraints of the tribalism and classism that plagues it today.

I feel that unity is inevitable, and by the time 2121 rolls around we’ll have had about 60 years to create a welcoming, multicultural, and multi-faceted society. One that’s less entrenched in identity, less focused on placating multinationals, and more invested in making sure our people are living well.

It will not be a 32-county socialist republic, but will borrow elements of socialism for a new state. A united Ireland would have us cherishing our history, our shared identities and experiences which would create something better and new.

Sara Canning. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Sara Canning. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

People will have more free time as universal basic income will be the standard, and remote working will mean that communities are more connected. We’ll have elected successive politicians who have had the foresight to embrace green principles to help mitigate the effects of inevitable climate change. (I was told this could be fantastical so I’m going for it!)

Renewable energy should be the norm, and farming will have moved away from being heavily based on animal products. Farmers will have made the move to more sustainable vertical agriculture, and our main protein sources will be lab grown.

The land reclaimed from farmland will be reforested, used for greenways to connect towns, and used to build eco-friendly homes. Housing will be ample and cost effective, eradicating homelessness and hopefully putting an end to landlord culture.

Ideally, I see a state where the people are cherished, as enshrined in the 1916 Proclamation. At present, our children and our children’s children are being left a world that we have run into the ground, and a society that places more value on things than on lives.

Let’s start with our next elections, change the agenda, we only have 99.5 years.

The king will lead the 66th celebrations of reunification with the UK
 

Rev MERVYN GIBSON
Grand Secretary of the Orange Order
It is May 8th, 2121. The United Kingdom home nation of Ireland continues to play a pivotal role in the worldwide pharmaceutical industry, as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of developing a cure for cancer.

The Irish Regional Parliamentary Council monthly session, which met in Cloverhill, marked the occasion by allocating £750 million to develop a medical facility in Peru; Ireland, the most progressive and prosperous region of the Union, has a reputation for distributing aid around the world.

This medical anniversary coincided with the anniversary of the ending of partition in 2055, when the then Republic of Ireland rejoined the UK. The Republic’s economy had imploded following the collapse of the European’s Union . . . the choices were to become economically dependent on China or reunify the island under one of the world’s top economies.

Mervyn Gibson. Photograph: Liam McBurney
Mervyn Gibson. Photograph: Liam McBurney

As reunification was a long-standing aspiration, and following a referendum on its future options, the Republic voted to be a nation once again.

The king will lead the 66th celebrations of reunification by visiting all 32 counties by the recently finished train network that made travel by motorised vehicle redundant. It is expected other royals will attend a range of sporting engagements at the National Stadiums in Loughgall and Cashel.

The cultural forum which ensures all residents’ traditions are respected has issued its 2121 programme, which for the 10th year will see the McAleese GAA Shield played on July 13th, while the largest Orange Twelfth event is expected to again take place at Oldbridge, Co Meath.

As part of the reunification celebrations every family will be gifted a personalised visual history capsule . . . young people today find it unbelievable some of their ancestors resorted to violence for a political cause, often with little success. Nor do they fathom the combative nature of politics 100 years ago, compared with the high esteem politicians are held in today with their collaborative approach to government.

A full political cabinet of women would be unremarkable

Sr STANISLAUS KENNEDY
Social activist
Ireland in 100 years will be a multicultural, democratic society, enjoying full equality, where girls and boys starting out in the world experience the same opportunities and outcomes.

Regardless of their address, economic circumstances, faith, sexual orientation, ethnicity, they have the same chance in life. Regardless of what kind of learner they are, Ireland has an education system that maximises their potential. Diversity is celebrated and reflected in all our major institutions.

Sr Stanislaus Kennedy. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Sr Stanislaus Kennedy. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

A full political cabinet of women would be unremarkable. Our diverse democracy is reflected everywhere and again unremarkable. Intergenerational poverty and consistent poverty will have been eradicated. Everyone will have the right to a home and long-term homelessness will be eliminated.

Work will be redefined and work in the home will be regarded as important as work outside it. Work for everyone will be a three-day week. We will have comprehensive healthcare which will be of high standard and good quality and accessible to all.

Violence against women will be an issue of the past. And those most affected by climate change will have had their voice heard and will have been leading the responses to protect our planet.

Ireland will exist where the value and dignity of a human being is not diminished by the simple act of their crossing a border. Where those who come in search of sanctuary are greeted with an embrace, not walls and fences. Ireland will exist in a world where migration is a choice, and not one driven by inequality, climate change, persecution or war.

The strength of the connection that exists between all of us is not diminished by superficial differences such as nationality, skin colour or religion. Ireland will be one country where diversity is so enmeshed in the fabric of our society that concepts like racism and xenophobia are studied as historical aberrations – relics of less enlightened times.

Ireland will be outward-looking and take a lead role in the development of the developing world. Diverse religions will work close together, respecting each other’s spirituality and women will play a central role. Youth and old age will be honoured and be a cherished part of the culture.

If Ireland is to develop in that way we need to start now with a radical change in attitude and outlook and a radical redistribution of our wealth and resources.

‘Belongingness’ will have to be addressed if this island is to be united

JOE DUFFY
Broadcaster and author
In 1971 I took a bus to Dublin Airport and hitched a lift to Belfast. Many of the locations were familiar from the news, but I didn’t feel I belonged. ‘Belongingness’ will have to be addressed if this island is to be united.

As president of the Union of Students in Ireland in the 1980s, and more recently with my work on Children of the Troubles, I have visited Northern Ireland more than any other part of the country. I have many friends there, and we are often in daily contact . . . I felt I belonged.

Joe Duffy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Joe Duffy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Yet, in truth, I know I have always felt closer to, and have more friendships with, those from a nationalist background in Northern Ireland.

We sat in many homes drinking cups of tea with families who had lost children in the Troubles. I felt I belonged. Jackie Nicholl, a former trade unionist and believer in the union, held his baby son’s rattle in his hand and described how the IRA had killed Colin and their two-year-old neighbour Tracey Munn simply because they were on the Shankill Road.

The deep, deep pain that still runs through so many hearts – it will take a long time to heal and move on. A united Ireland will have to address this pain – which has no borders – if we are all to feel a sense of belongingness.

The Partition Project

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As Jack Kennedy, the father of another child victim of the Troubles, said: ‘The bullets that killed my James didn’t just travel in distance they travelled in time. Some of those bullets never stop travelling.”

It’s time we all started travelling both in distance and time. Pensioners on the island can travel over the border on public transport free – let’s extend that to under-18s, especially school groups.

An island without lines drawn in education between faith and gender

SÍONA CAHILL
Youth campaigner and former president of the Union of Students in Ireland
I imagine an island without lines drawn in education between faith and gender. Could you just imagine? An island north and south, where the Protestants didn’t stay at one corner of the parish and you at the other?

An island where baptismal entry to a faith before you could form a sentence yourself didn’t bear any connection to how you interacted with history and her story?

An island where whether wearing slacks versus a skirt didn’t determine what bus you hopped on in the morning or who you grew up alongside.

Siona Cahill. Photograph: Conor McCabe
Síona Cahill. Photograph: Conor McCabe

I’m determined to see this kind of island. This kind of island isn’t obsessed with borders or political divides – it would instead focus on connection.

It would make space for difference of opinion but it wouldn’t divide us along lines that are archaic and old fashioned.

It would bring us all together to learn, and possibly more importantly, unlearn.

Formal education should be a space for equality of opportunity and getting to know each other socially, regardless of what estate we come from.

It’s a precious thing, to learn – to learn in a classroom or behind the bike sheds, to learn from the pages of books and digital tablets or out on the pitch. To learn from debates and rows, or from seeing friends hold hands because they’re something more now than they were before.

That’s learning. That should be our basic commitment.

To actually grow up, as an island, and stop separating each generation along decades-old lines, and instead, bring us together.

It doesn’t mean we’ll ever be the exact same, but it would be a very basic place to start.

The words ‘unionism’ and ‘nationalism’ will have disappeared from discourse
 

JIMMY NESBITT
Actor
I can imagine myself being transported to Tír na nÓg, the land of eternal youth, and, like Oisín, returning to Ireland in 100 years. Would I recognise what I see? Would I want to?

Certainly I would hope that the essential charm, generosity and humour of the Irish people will still be a huge part of what it means to be Irish. That is what I would want to greet me when I return on my white charger.

James Nesbitt. Photograph: Trevor McBride
James Nesbitt. Photograph: Trevor McBride

What will be different will be the politics and the structure. After the ‘great debate’ of the 2020s and 2030s the words ‘unionism’ and ‘nationalism’ will have disappeared from discourse, to be replaced with a sense of togetherness and of unity of the people. Not only on this island, but across a new commonwealth of nations sharing common goals and created by agreement rather than by coercion or imperialism.

We will have had almost 70 years of peace and harmony and cultural, social and economic growth in an Ireland that is a key partner in that new commonwealth of nations.

Having mentioned one of the great Irish legends in Oisín, it is perhaps worth looking to a type of federal Ireland loosely based on the historic provinces – each with its own leadership team within the wider context, with Ulster of course dominating the rugby field.

A pipe dream?

Maybe, but I genuinely think it can happen if we are prepared to have that prolonged debate about what we want to look like as a people and how we want to develop and grow.

We can make the choice to change.

I want to see an Ireland that is at peace with itself and is a safe and prosperous place for all
 

HEATHER HUMPHREYS
Minister for Social Protection and Rural and Community Development and Fine Gael TD for Cavan-Monaghan and north Meath
As we reflect on the challenges of the past year, whether Covid-19 or Brexit, we must continue to acknowledge and celebrate the unique relationship between the people of this island.

I grew up in an Ireland where Protestants lived alongside their Catholic neighbours. But, as Protestants, we were always mindful that we were part of a minority community.

We were very conscious that The Troubles in Northern Ireland and the murder of our protestant neighbours across the Border in Fermanagh and Armagh by the IRA could at any time spill across the Border. It was often best to say nothing and keep your head down.

The Ireland of today is a very changed Ireland from the one I grew up in. When I think of an Ireland 100 years from now, I want to see a united people living together on an island underpinned by a unity of purpose and where cultural and religious differences are respected, valued and celebrated.

When it comes to sport and culture, I want to see the all-island approach, taken by the Irish rugby team, used as a model for how we can present Ireland and all of our talents on the international stage.

To achieve this, we need to first unite the people of Northern Ireland and support them in every way we can to build trust and respect and break down the barriers that separate them.

I would love to see communities on both side of the Peace Walls in Northern Ireland come together and take down the walls of division, brick by brick.

As we work towards achieving a united island we must be mindful of the many Unionists who identify as British and wish to maintain that link with the UK.While taking account of the many different perspectives, we must strive to ensure that Unionists do not feel threatened or disenfranchised and that their unique cultural identity is not subsumed into a wider Irish nationalist narrative.

One hundred years from now, I want to see an Ireland that is at peace with itself and is a safe and prosperous place for all our people regardless of colour or creed.

Placing one of our houses of legislature in Belfast and one in Dublin will be seen as visionary

JIM O’CALLAGHAN
Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Bay South
Hopefully, in 2121 people in Ireland will look back on the conflict that led to partition, and the contested loyalty of its participants to Republic or Crown, as an historic and anachronistic dispute that no longer permeates the island.

Hopefully, they will commend a mature generation from the previous century who resolved to end the paralysing and divisive impact that this historic dispute had on the development of people on the island.

Jim O’Callaghan. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Jim O’Callaghan. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Hopefully, they will applaud the vision of the peoples of Northern Ireland and Ireland who decided for the benefit of future generations to come together to promote the common good of all the people of the island.

Hopefully, they will recognise the bravery of the peoples of Northern Ireland and Ireland who made that decision notwithstanding the struggles, sacrifices, achievements and faults of their ancestors.

Hopefully, they will appreciate that it was because of that decision that people on the island are no longer overshadowed by the past but are living together with dignity and freedom, whilst having their differences and diversity respected.

Hopefully, they will regard the decision to place one of our houses of legislature in Belfast and one in Dublin as visionary, and the decision to guarantee in our laws and political structures the rights of those from the unionist tradition as exemplary.

Hopefully, people from the unionist tradition will acknowledge that their traditions and heritage were not diminished by joining together in a new arrangement with their southern neighbours, and that they remain as free as ever to express their convictions and loyalties with the full support of their country.

Hopefully, those from nationalist, unionist or neither tradition will cherish living in a country that confidently accommodates the diversity and different identities of its citizens, and that views their different cultures and traditions as a sign of their homeland’s strength.

Hopefully, the world will see that the justice, charity and tenderness that is promoted amongst all people on the island of Ireland derives from the new departure that occurred in the previous century and that transformed Ireland from a contested land into a New Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s people should use their fantastic energy to fulfil its huge potential
 

HUGO MacNEILL
Former Ireland rugby international and chairman of the British-Irish Association
I love this island. All parts of this island. I was very lucky to represent this island in rugby, playing eight years for the Irish team. Initially rugby brought me to so many parts of Northern Ireland. I experienced the best of people.

Hugo MacNeill. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Hugo MacNeill. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

I visited great places (including Glenarm in Antrim, from where my ancestors came) and built fantastic friendships. I have listened to the different stories. Have heard the stories of sadness and loss as well as happiness and achievement. I believe so much in its people because of the experiences I have had.

Recently Belfast was chosen against worldwide competition to host One Young World in 2023, bringing young people from all over the world for the largest global gathering of social activists. Belfast was chosen for its energy, resilience, history and humour.

I wish more people from the Republic could visit Northern Ireland, and vice versa. I want to see its people use their fantastic energy to build mutual respect, tolerance, reconciliation and fulfil its huge potential. This would make Northern Ireland work better for all its people today.

But crucially it is also necessary for the success of all longer-term ambitions, such as a Northern Ireland staying and growing in the UK or joining and developing a United Ireland.

We will have addressed issues of gender – including transgender athletes

SARAH KEANE
Swim Ireland chief executive and president of the Olympic Federation of Ireland
I believe and I hope that in 100 years from now Ireland will be a a society that puts health – physical and mental wellbeing – first, and work second.

Where sport and exercise will be a ‘must do’ in our daily lives and we will work smarter and shorter hours, instead of trying to fit exercise in around work and family life.

Sarah Keane. Photograph: James Forde
Sarah Keane. Photograph: James Forde

On average I believe that we will be living much longer and 90 years of age will be what 70 years of age is now. Therefore we will want to ensure that we look after our bodies better to be healthier and able to enjoy a long life cycle.

We will partake in lots of different physical activities and sport will definitely not just be for the young.

In terms of competitive sport and the Olympic Games, 100 years ago it was the domain of men in almost every way; organisers, dignitaries, athletes and coaches.

In 2021 for the first time ever there will be an equal number of male and female athletes at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In 100 years’ time, not only will we have seen the first International Olympic Committee female president but we will have addressed the issues of gender – including transgender athletes – in a way that is inclusive, fair and clear that sport welcomes all.

A unified and high-quality health service for all of the island
 

GABRIEL SCALLY
Public-health expert and head of the inquiry into the CervicalCheck screening programme
The most significant change in the next 100 years will be the break-up of the United Kingdom. The almost inevitable independence of Scotland means that Great Britain will no longer exist as an entity.

Scotland will join the EU and forge strong links with other European states and in particular Ireland.

There will inevitably be changed relationships between the island of Ireland and whatever structures succeed the UK. An all-Ireland authority will come into being in some form before many decades have passed.

Gabriel Scally. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Gabriel Scally. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

A landmark aspect of the century for Ireland will be a unified and high-quality health service for the island’s population. In the interests of efficiency and effectiveness, it will be firmly based on universal access without charges at the time of use.

An environmental revolution will happen in Ireland, bringing exciting and beneficial changes to agriculture, with Ireland following the lead set by other European countries, such as Denmark, in embracing organic food production systems.

Substantial rewilding of non-agriculturally productive land will dramatically improve Ireland’s tree-poor landscape.

A housing revolution will occur with the modernisation of the housing stock to bring it up to the highest standards of energy efficiency and sustainable urban design.

The Irish language will revive dynamically and be used regularly and become a source of pride for most of the population.

We will not forget the benefits we have as a result of freedom of faith
 

EILEEN PAISLEY
Wife of former Northern Ireland first minister and DUP founder Ian Paisley
Faith, I believe, is the cornerstone of the nation. It is from our faith that we derive our moral code of conduct, our business ethics and our legal system. Even those in society who claim no personal faith are governed by principles which have their roots, in our case, in Christianity.

Ulster has been greatly blessed in its history in that before and since partition we have known times of great awakenings or revival of faith. The 1859 Revival changed the course of what happened on this island and even today we still reap its benefits.

Baroness Eileen Paisley. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Baroness Eileen Paisley. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Trust in Christ is a personal matter, but that personal trust reaches beyond the individual and out into the community and out again into the nation.

Understanding our past and why we are who we are as a people is of course vital to where we will be as a people in the future. It sets the compass for the new generation.

My greatest hope for the next 100 years of our province – if Christ’s return is beyond that time – is that we will not forget the benefits we have as a result of freedom of faith nor will we stand on the sidelines and allow the 10 Commandments to become so diluted they no longer form the basis of the laws which govern our society.

Real freedom is found in Christ but its fruit yields a wider benefit than for the individual alone, it yields neighbourly love and of course to love our neighbour as ourselves is what Christ described as the greatest commandment of all.

Eternity will be well underway for me when the next 100 years of the partitioning of this island we all love so much is being celebrated. I hope there will be a fair number of my fellow county-men marking it with me in the land that is fairer than day.

A strong interventionist state is needed to protect the interests of ordinary people
 

MATT CARTHY
Sinn Féin TD for Cavan-Monaghan
One hundred years from now I believe that Ireland will be only a few years away from celebrating the centenary of Irish reunification.

Historians will debate why it took so long to end partition. At the foundation of a united Ireland will be a solidarity that recognises and respects all identities and cultures, and works to eliminate sectarianism and racism. People will unite in a common cause of building a better and stronger nation.

The idea that the state would step back from its responsibilities to its citizens will no longer be accepted.

The balance of power between corporate interests, vested interests and the privileged and the interests of ordinary citizens will change dramatically. Our democracy will be stronger and more participatory.

In those years after Irish reunification, the huge energy, enthusiasm and economic prosperity of the newly reunified country will be channelled into improving the lives of the people of Ireland.

That will mean tackling economic inequality, building a national health service and delivering homes and infrastructure to those communities that were denied them for so long.

Work will be part of our lives but will not dominate it. Contributing to community and society, family and caring will be understood to be integral to the wellbeing of the country. That will see changes in how we work, including a reduction in the working week.

Having learned from the Covid-19 pandemic and following unity the state will reassert its role in delivering public services and infrastructure.

It will become obvious to all that to meet challenges, including climate change, a strong interventionist state is needed to protect the interests of ordinary people. A hundred years from now the Irish national health service will also near its centenary. It will be the cornerstone of a better, fairer, united Ireland that Irish people are immensely proud to be part of.

Irish unity is the big idea that will herald a transformation of Ireland over the next 100 years. Like all big ideas, as Nelson Mandela said, it will have seemed impossible until it is done.

If we teach our children how to cook there will be long-term health benefits
 

NEVEN MAGUIRE
Chef-proprietor, MacNean House and Restaurant
I imagine people reconnecting with food and going back to growing our own produce like our grandparents did. The world has stopped for a while during Covid-19, and we’ve been able to reflect on what’s important and we’ve had time to enjoy our food and think about where it comes from.

People now have a huge interest in gardening and cooking, and I’d like to think in the future that will grow. If we teach our children how to cook there will be long-term benefits when it comes to health issues like diabetes or obesity.

Neven Maguire
Neven Maguire

I was the first boy to do home economics in my school, and I’d love to see every young person do home economics but call it life skills, not home economics, it’s about cooking and nutrition. It’s a win-win, because if government invested in that long term you’d have a healthier population.

People are now more knowledgeable about their food – where it comes from, how it grows, and seasonality. Supermarkets are not to blame, but people can now have food from any part of the world all year round.

Seasonality needs to be at the forefront of how we cook; that’s what we do in the restaurant, and any chef will tell you that’s how you get the best price and the best flavour.

In Italy they respect and value the seasons; at the local markets they sell seasonal, local food, so there’s fewer air miles. Buy local and shop local – if we’re going to look after the environment that’s where it starts.

The future is finding meaning and respect in the shared expression of our dreams
 

JIMMY FAY
Executive Producer, Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Tradition is bullying by dead people! I saw this on a wall in Belfast but it could have been Dublin, if Dublin did decent graffiti.

Sometimes I imagine traditions symbolised by a malignant octopus strangling the vibrancy out of all our young before they’ve left the shelter of the cave.

The recent riots made Northern Ireland the subject of many conversations. If the North needs to change, so then does the South. Probably even more radically.

When my friend, Belfast director Emma Jordan, won the award for Best Director at The Irish Times Theatre Awards a few years ago for her magnificent production of Red – a play about the tortured artist Rothko – she said, to a packed auditorium of Irish theatre professionals, a line that struck me with the force of a wake-up call: “It’s great to feel part of the conversation.”

I realised that not many involved in “Irish Theatre” included the Northern Irish theatre scene as part of a conversation.

I am a Dubliner who now lives in Belfast because I got a great job running the Lyric Theatre. It is a theatre that, for over 50 years, has been vital to the cultural heartbeat and artistic ambitions of the North.

North and South, we put way too much pressure on our young, expecting them to solve impossible equations we barely engaged with ourselves. And yet, they electrify by example on climate change, social responsibility, personal accountability.

The future is finding meaning and respect in the shared expression of our dreams, our hopes, our aspirations. It is also about having a forum to exorcise our nightmares. Theatre and art are such forums.

From the Greeks to the Elizabethans, no progressive society has been able to confront the shadow of itself, erase its demons, or imagine hope in the future without a vibrant theatrical culture.

In the future, I hope for more real investment in the theatre and artistic life across this island. More open spaces, more arenas of imagination and debate, more light and expression. So nothing has to retreat into the shadows, festering in isolation.

How we make everyone part of the conversation rather than just the subject of it is vital for the equilibrium of these isles.

Differences should be celebrated but we need to promote and progress from our shared humanity
 

HAZEL CHU
Lord Mayor of Dublin
Dialogue is the most important thing. We’ve seen the recent trouble in Northern Ireland ... it’s coming to the table with a willingness to talk and a willingness to see past our differences.

I come from a background of migrants, people who came into Ireland, and I was born and raised here, but I’ve always felt like I was an outsider, that I was in the ‘other’ box. In that way I can relate to people feeling as if they are not part of their surroundings.

Hazel Chu. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Hazel Chu. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Coming from a migrant background, I can definitely tell people your national identity is what you make it.

So many people tell me on a daily basis to go back to China even though I’ve only been once, and there’s a lot of rhetoric about who owns what land. I think it really requires political and community leaders to make sure we can continue to have a conversation that doesn’t resort to violence or disorder.

A lot of people accept the kind of Irishness where unless your forefathers fought in the Civil War then you’re not Irish. I come from Hong Kong which was a country taken over by the British, but a lot of people don’t want to accept the fact that my family and my ancestors fought for their land just like Irish people did.

There is a lot of shared history, and of course we should celebrate and remember, but that’s not progress. If we are to progress we have to look at history in the form of its learnings.

I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t keep our identities or our cultures or our heritage, but they shouldn’t be the only thing that define us.

Given what the world has suffered with Covid, I think if anything binds us it is our humanity. Differences of course should be celebrated – our cultures, our skin colours, our religions, our backgrounds – but what we need to be connected with and what we need to try to promote and progress from is that shared humanity.