Clerics will regard joint service as ‘a minefield’

Clerics leading a joint church service in Armagh to mark the Centenary of NI today will regard the event as “a minefield”, an historian has said.

By Philip Bradfield
Thursday, 21st October 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 21st October 2021, 10:29 am

Gordon Lucy was speaking in the wake of huge controversy caused by Republic of Ireland President Michael D Higgins turning down an invitation.

“Most of the events surrounding the centenary have been so low key they hardly merit attention whatsoever,” Mr Lucy told the News Letter.

“So this [church service] may prove to be one of the more significant commemorations of the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland. Although Covid and the pandemic has had an impact on many centenary events.

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Historian Gordon Lucy says clerics leading the service to mark the Centenary of NI will need all their diplomatic skills.

“Whatever is happening, though, I would imagine the church leaders will regard it as a mine field and will be walking on eggshells.

“All their diplomatic skills will be required to see this through, I would imagine.”

He found it interesting that many southerners supported Michael D Higgins’s decision.

“I suspect in the longer timescale people may look back and take a less benign view of his behaviour. They may see it as a lost opportunity.”

Looking to the future of NI, he said there should be no assumption that the unification of north and south would be a good thing; he noted the ambitions of Adolf Hitler were similarly founded on reclaiming what he considered to be lost territory.

“His whole view of the world was all about restoring Germany to the greatness which he believed the Treaty of Versailles deprived it of.”

He does not share the assumption that the unification of The Republic and Northern Ireland would be a good thing. He added: “I would have thought anybody looking at the history of the 20th Century might well conclude that nationalist irredentism [a popular movement to reclaim ‘lost’ territory] is not a good thing.”

“Surely World War two is an outcome of nationalism of the most disagreeable sort? There probably are benign forms of nationalism nobody would object to, but if it is a vehicle for territorial expansionism it usually ends up having unhappy consequences.”

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