Archbishop warns of dangers in 2016 commemorations

Events of 1916 helped create island’s ‘two communities’, says Church of Ireland figure

 Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson warned differences between “Northerners and Southerners” could “perpetuate a paralysis in generosity in the inter-relations of both countries”. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson warned differences between “Northerners and Southerners” could “perpetuate a paralysis in generosity in the inter-relations of both countries”. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

A leading Church of Ireland figure has warned confusion about our past might yet overshadow the island’s future.

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said the two key events of 1916, the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, helped “create the fault-lines which give us our fractured identities in Ireland, as Northerners and Southerners. They have helped to cement not only political but psychological differences. They have been used to create ‘the two communities’.”

Such differences could “perpetuate a paralysis in generosity in the inter-relations of both countries. Each ideology has become the enemy of the other and each seeks vigorously to deny this.”

There was insufficient evidence “to convince an electorate on either side of the Border that there is a real hunger for pro-active peacemaking and energetic community-building. It is an electorate that is becoming more and more disillusioned about the priority of the public good in the minds of the professional politicians,” he said.

New citizens

Speaking in St Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin, Archbishop Jackson said: “It is not only that we need to make a real go of resolving our differences as we have inherited them and fed them historically, but we need to let those who are new citizens – immigrants and refugees, recent and of longer standing – to this bickering Ireland look critically at us and help us to become a rather different Ireland.”

The opportunity presented was “to create an Ireland today for tomorrow. This is every bit as important as sorting out the past.”

He remembered attending a meeting on community-building at Stormont in 2002. One speaker said “I am a French-Algerian atheist and a woman. I do not understand your ‘two communities,’ I do not belong to them nor do I want to.”

The Archbishop felt the language of “the two communities” was “literally incomprehensible to people who have not staggered through the minutiae of Irish history and traded prejudice and factual distortion as a definition of what matters most in civic and social life. They cannot understand our near-paralysis around historical legacy and our failure to move forward with some sort of togetherness.”

In Ireland we needed to hear “those who are new to our inherited preoccupations, those who today make their abode here. And we need to do it country-wide if Irish society from this new year is to move beyond the economic model of recovery to a social model of development of people,” he said.