Civic unionist to Sinn Fein leader: ‘A conversation might help supporters of banner to understand the offence it caused’
A reply to the Sinn Fein president who on March 26 (‘SF leader: As a new Ireland emerges we need to work together and be truthful,) had replied to a first letter from Terry Wright on March 21:
Mary Lou, A Chara,
Thank you for your reply.
I welcome your acknowledgment of the respectful manner in which the meeting at Queen’s University was conducted and like you, value honesty, courtesy and candour when engaging.
In respect of hidden meanings and misrepresentation, since I do not view these matters as applying directly to me, there seems no necessity to comment further except to agree that where these are present, or result from insensitive politics, they do threaten to poison the political process and undermine reconciliation.
As a committed republican I understand your allegiance to the historical ideology of Theobald Wolfe Tone but there have been many significant changes since 1798.
You refer to the Good Friday Agreement; you could also refer to the statement of the British government of the time in its declaration of no longer having any economic or strategic interest in Northern Ireland.
These two developments, with others, mean that any link with the United Kingdom is based on the close affinity of a majority of the population with the culture, shared history and people of the United Kingdom expressed democratically, under the principle of consent, and is not imposed by England or any other region. These leave open to question the wisdom of basing any contemporary analysis on the ancestral voices of the past. Unionism faces the same issues.
Left unresolved, along with the legacy of the choice to use sectarian and political violence in our long and recent past suggests, does it not, that the barriers to reconciliation and inclusion lie within rather than resulting from external influence? It is incumbent on all to avoid reinforcing these.
The fact that you, as leader of Sinn Fein, have felt it necessary to justify your recent actions in the USA cannot just be laid at the door of those who, in your judgement, wish to misrepresent you. This is certainly not the case with civic unionists and I am disappointed that having had the opportunity to engage at Queen’s University, you would feel yourself a victim of this.
There is no strategic hidden agenda in bringing a genuine concern arising from the event on St Patrick’s Day to your attention and it is my anticipation, given your response, that doing so will contribute to deeper understanding as our shared community moves towards reconciliation and inclusivity.
In a spirit of the ‘redemptive goodwill ‘championed by American leader, Martin Luther King, in his stand against narrow prejudice, it would be positive for you to engage with civic unionism and use your influence to host a conversation with those who deem it appropriate to display the banner to better understand the offence it has caused.
This would provide space to discuss the choice of symbols and how sensitive options can promote parity of esteem and mutual respect. It would facilitate removing the ethnic out of politics to replace it with civic imagination for the benefit of all.
Terry Wright, Londonderry