The vital task of reconciliation
Sir, – The symbolism of Prince Charles’s visit to the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation earlier this week was important in that it showed, whatever the current political problems, how closely intertwined Ireland and Britain remain: socially, economically and culturally.
This is a vital reality that we must never forget nor underestimate.
Since 1974 Glencree, the Republic of Ireland’s only peace centre, has worked hard to promote and encourage peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
Our work is largely behind the scenes and under the radar, often dealing with people from loyalist and republican areas who do not want publicity.
However, it is highly valued by both the Irish and British governments, a factor in the decision to issue the invitation to Prince Charles. Another factor was that during his previous visit in 2002, the prince spoke honestly and painfully about the loss of his beloved uncle, Earl Mountbatten, killed by the IRA in 1979.
Despite the fractures caused by Brexit, the relationship between our two countries remains – and will remain – of paramount importance. We need to remember that the 21 years of relative peace we have enjoyed since the Belfast Agreement represents a very short period when it comes to the difficult process of bedding down a lasting peace in Ireland.
The prospect of Irish unity is used by some as a weapon and seen by others as a threat. Glencree emphasises that the important thing for the future harmony and happiness of this island is to develop good and trusting relationships between its peoples, through what I would call practising “radical generosity”.
At a time of “attack and defend” politics all over Europe and North America, and the polarisation between people that has resulted, what we have learned at Glencree is the need to listen to each other in a generous and facilitative way so as to understand the underlying issues that make people resort to threats and weapons. As we in Ireland have discovered to our cost, that leads in only one direction: towards conflict and violence.
Glencree’s work today – in its legacy, intercultural, women’s and young leaders programmes – has one thread running through it: the need for dialogue and peace education in everything we do. In an increasingly dangerous world, we must create a critical mass for peace. – Yours, etc,
for Peace and