At the recent ‘Pride Talks Back’ event hosted by the MAC Theatre on Monday July 30, the leader of Irish republicanism Mary Lou McDonald made what potentially could be one of the most significant statements of the entire peace process.
Speaking in the context of religious views being imposed on society, Mary Lou referred back to the 1920s when Ireland was partitioned, and stated that at that time “two ultra-reactionary states were created”.
While referring to the Northern state as “orange in nature and culture”, she made this startling admission as regards the southern state when she declared: “The fact is that home rule was Rome rule ... unionism, you were right.”
Mary Lou went on to describe Rome rule as: “A whole social and political system that was about control, that was about repression and which was intertwined with religious doctrine”.
The significance of this statement from the leader of Irish republicanism, I believe, should not be underestimated.
For decades Protestants were simply maligned as bigots because of their attitude towards the Roman Catholic Church; and in turn this view of Protestantism was often used to justify the republican terror campaign against that same Protestant community.
Yet here we have an Irish republican now admitting that Protestants were justified in their suspicion of Roman Catholicism.
If such recognition of the Protestant/unionist historical position is genuine, I as a unionist, commend Mary Lou McDonald for her honesty.
In so doing, I ask my fellow unionists this question: is there anyone brave enough to push open that door which may just have been unlocked, with a view to engaging in meaningful dialogue with Irish republicanism for the first time in almost one hundred years?
Ken McFarland, Omagh