Did you stop to consider the feelings of the people of Belfast who regard you as their President? Those citizens of Ireland who were left behind after partition and condemned to endure decades of state controlled sectarian discrimination and forced emigration but nevertheless maintained their sense of nationhood. Those same people would have been delighted to see the President of Ireland at Belfast City Hall for the Centennial.
Belfast contributed in no small part to the Easter Rising. Charlie Monahan from Short Strand was the first Volunteer to die in Easter Week. Two of the seven signatories, James Connolly and Seán Mac Diarmada had strong connections having lived in the town for many years. The same is true of two of the most prominent women to take part in the Rising – Winifred Carney and Margaret Skinnider.
Your withdrawal from the city council event which was to honour the sacrifice of just such people reflects poorly on the office of President of the nation. It will forever be a stain on your period in office. Perhaps the most important part of the Proclamation which the Irish Diaspora all over the world is currently celebrating is the promise to cherish all the children of the nation equally. Does it not apply to the citizens of Ireland’s second city?
In these days of an ever enduring and yet fragile peace process we badly need a leadership that will lead by example. Ireland is not well served by a servile Dublin government or a head of state who deems it appropriate to deliberately snub an inclusive event in order to pacify the more mean spirited and less inclusive politicians beating the sectarian drum in the run up to the elections on May 5th.
Perhaps in this centennial year it is time the government in Dublin started to acknowledge the responsibility, and indeed, the debt of gratitude it has to Irish citizens in the north rather than cow-towing to the ungraceful bluster of the ne’ersayers who claim allegiance to another state?