A Hume-Trimble Forest?


How can the people of Ireland best thank John Hume for thirty years of tireless effort to bring home to all on the island that we are not dealing with lines on maps, but with problems of generosity to one another, with rights for everyone, not just for any particular group. Both communities in the North, he has written, have behaved like threatened minorities. If a mountain was named after him, it would perhaps be the measure of the man and his achievement. And with him must be linked the name of David Trimble who still has a hard road to travel. Which he will do.

No, not a mountain, but, especially in this month of the celebration of trees, a forest to mark the Nobel prizewinners, and a forest of trees native to Ireland. Oaks, you will immediately say, thinking of Derry, doire, an oak grove. But it is a tree that grows all over the country. And while the national tree was a few years ago declared to be the sessile oak, much grander is the pedunculate oak, that oak which stretches its branches maybe thirty yards, which stand for strength, tenacity, continuity.

No, not to plant a new forest, which will mature only slowly. Does the Government, through the Forestry Department or Coillte, already own such a collection of what Dryden called "the patriarch of trees"? Is there a private forest of the same which might be bought by public subscription? Only a couple of years ago John wrote in his book Personal Views: Politics, Peace and Reconciliation in Ireland as follows: "No instant package will wipe away the damage done over the centuries, but I am absolutely certain that agreement will eventually emerge. The healing process must begin .. . The new Ireland of the twentyfirst century will emerge out of that process. It will not, in all likelihood, conform to any of our traditional models. It will be an Ireland based on respect for diversity rather than devotion to homogeneity."

Oaks grow, die after maybe many centuries, but continually reproduce themselves through fallen acorns and careful woodcraft. A Hume/ Trimble oak forest would express our thanks.