I greatly appreciate his recognition of the positive that already exists and totally endorse all that he has said about the urgent need for leadership at every level of political and civic society if we are not to lose that which has already been achieved. As others have rightly pointed out, there are realities regarding the future political landscape of the Island of Ireland that we can no longer ignore – and yes, it is also my experience that more and more people from within the U/u unionist part of our community are beginning to share this conversation, much more in private than in public. Understandably, this is where it must begin but sooner rather than later this conversation needs to be brought out into the open and shared with people from across our community, unionist and nationalist, Catholic and Protestant.
Only when we can share such a conversation as a people who have confidence in ourselves and our own positions and traditions, as well as an understanding of each others, can we begin to explore political options without prejudice, fear or pre-conception. This is a big ‘ask’ but not beyond us, and as Nesbitt reminds us particularly important as we approach the anniversaries of 1920 and 1921.
The alternative is to drift on, ignoring the realities which inevitably will determine our future.
Most likely in ways which would cause yet more division with potentially dangerous consequences. So why not now begin to share in the honest, open and constructive conversation of which Jimmy Nesbitt speaks? Let us move beyond the flawed assumption that to discuss that which is difficult and initially contrary to my personal and familial history is an unthinkable betrayal of my tradition! Rather, let us see it as an opportunity to explore as yet untried and un-tested options, at least one of which would inevitably be to the benefit of all the peoples of this entire island, whatever the future ‘make and shape’ of this our shared island home. From an entirely personal point of view, I would hope and pray that future for my children and grandchildren to be determined by design rather than by default! I would like to think that I could yet be a part of that conversation – but as a realist as well as a dreamer, I am conscious that time may not be on my side!
But I WILL dream on!