Teenager’s Stormont letter bridges generation gap

Kenneth Young is full of praise for Hannah Ruth Gibson
Kenneth Young is full of praise for Hannah Ruth Gibson

An open letter to the Stormont Executive by a ‘child of the Good Friday Agreement’ has struck a chord with a pensioner four times her age.

The News Letter shared excerpts from 19-year-old Hannah Ruth Gibson’s blog post online last month, and her incisive criticism of the Assembly gained a tremendous response.

Teenage blogger Hannah Ruth Gibson who has written 'An Open Letter to the Northern Ireland Assembly'

Teenage blogger Hannah Ruth Gibson who has written 'An Open Letter to the Northern Ireland Assembly'

Her ‘cry from the heart’ prompted 80-year-old Kenneth Young, who ran for Westminister election for the NI Labour Party in 1970, to write to this paper in praise of the young blogger.

Writing directly to Ms Gibson, he said: “You want to know why our hilltop edifice of excess representation is an underachieving laughing stock that makes us appear to be unworthy of our benefits.

“Most of our citizens entitled to vote are sandwiched between my age and your youth so the purpose of this letter is to offer something from the past to link with your present and future to see if that helps you to understand why we are where we are and better still enables you to broadcast your concerns more widely.”

He continued: “The first 16 years of my life were dominated by wall to wall 24/7 British Empire, Protestant Church, Ulster Unionist, Orange Order culture with nothing to dilute their certainties.

“During the next 16 years I encountered Catholics in varied locations and circumstances and broadened my education through exchange of views with them. I also connected with Protestant industrial workers. I attended Paisley rallies and chapel services. The various sections of class and religion were becoming more connected, informed and laid back but there were vacuums of leadership.”

He commented: “The multi-talented Rev Paisley could have taken a different route that would have improved Northern Ireland. He might have used his huge personality, energy and abilities to bring people together but he chose to stir things up, to make the government impotent and to shatter our fragile social structures.

“Horrible vicious war erupted with consequences out of all proportion to real or imagined grievances.

“It is up to you and people like you, Hannah, to do what you can to connect with the electorate and persuade them that the countless sacrifices of the past deserve better than we have now, that it is worth going out to vote and that anyone content in thought, word, deed or attitude to keep the embers of bigotry glowing or the flickering flames of violence alive has the wrong attitude and too much disrespect for us all to deserve a vote.”

Hannah Ruth Gibson describes herself as a Christian feminist.

In her insightful blog post the English and politics student said: “I have the advantage of some lack of historical context; I am not being disrespectful in this means, I am merely stating that I am neutral.

“Growing up ‘The Troubles’ were not something I knew anything of; I distinctly remember, age 11, asking my mother whether I was a Protestant or a Catholic.

“I have the benefit of being an outsider with the cultural contextual insight of a young woman who has lived her entire life in east Belfast.”

You can read our story on Hannah’s blog here