Terry, many thanks for your thoughtful and considered response to my earlier letter.
See ‘Engaging with banner supporters might help them see offence it caused’, Terry Wright, News Letter, March 29, and the response ‘SF leader: As a new Ireland emerges we need to work together and be truthful’, Mary Lou McDonald, News Letter, March 26)
The tone and civility of your response is reflective of the dialogue that is required as we step our way forward, together in a society that is undergoing fundamental change.
The Good Friday Agreement provides the framework for addressing the present circumstances and challenge of future change. Respect, equality, parity of esteem, peace and the principle of consent are essential values of today and tomorrow.
I was very taken by the challenge of your statement that “the barriers to reconciliation and inclusion lie within”. This is undoubtedly true.
That is why we need robust laws, policies and practises to safeguard rights for all citizens and promote reconciliation.
No section of the community has a monopoly on causing offence or being offended. That is why we must ensure that we are truthful, generous and civil with each other.
I believe that the time is right for a civil dialogue on symbols and the promotion of parity of esteem and mutual respect. We must challenge the barriers to “reconciliation and inclusion that lie within”.
We must listen, we must respect each other, and we must be generous with each other.
This must not be a censorious discussion on aspirations or identities.
The old approach of “whatever you say, say nothing” failed us all. Our dialogue must be a truthful, civil and respectful.
True dialogue is a two way process of understanding.
I look forward to continuing this discussion as move forward together.
Mary Lou McDonald, president of Sinn Fein
(This latest letter is part of an exchange on the News Letter’s pages dating back to March 21, when Terry Wright criticised her (SEE HERE) for carrying a St Patrick’s parade banner reading ‘England get out of Ireland’)