Brexit – an Irish Church perspective
Public commentary in the UK has been dominated for the past two-and-a-half years by one word: ‘Brexit’. The close relationship between our countries means that Brexit has inevitably preoccupied minds in Ireland too.
In our own Church of Ireland community there has been considerable interest from people from all sides of the discussion.
For many living across these islands, the prospect of Brexit has brought profound uncertainty, not just in the sphere of “high politics” but in many areas of everyday life. I am hopeful that a Withdrawal Agreement can be reached, which will provide some initial clarity for our citizens as they face the future.
UNLOCKING THE WHEELS
If political progress in Northern Ireland depended solely on the willingness of presidents and the great and the good to fly in – we would be watching an idyll of cooperation beyond our wildest dreams.
Unfortunately, we have discovered that it takes something in addition to the input and attention of the famous to bring progress. There are some solutions that have to be found a little more locally.
At the time of writing, it has been 659 days since there was a functioning Executive. It is hard to find the right word to describe how people feel about the political deadlock in Northern Ireland. The lack of agreement is beyond frustrating! It is certainly unacceptable.
Amongst the frustration being voiced in recent weeks has been a sense that something new needs to be injected into the deadlock, to release it. It has been 659 days of bearing out the truth, ‘if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got’. 659 days without a functioning government clearly demonstrates that something is not working.
What on earth could that mysterious missing ingredient be?
Recently, an interesting contribution has come from Alan McBride. He lost his wife, Sharon, and father-in-law, John Frizzell, in the 1993 Shankill bombing. Frustrated at the political impasse, he has challenged the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Féin to take part in a televised debate. In an open letter to both leaders he says he wants to hear what they will do “to make this country work.” In stark terms, he writes: “There is no need to bring a facilitator in from amongst the great and the good, just a televised interview with an ordinary guy who lost his wife in a bomb.”
He elaborates on what he needs to hear. “I want both of you to tell those of us who have to live together in this small place what does it mean to be a good neighbour in this society … How much is ‘good neighbourliness’ a factor in your thinking?”
What he has done is show that the missing mystery ingredient is not “a facilitator in from amongst the great and the good.” It is actually to be found much closer to home. “I want to hear you explain to the people of Northern Ireland what you are prepared to do to make this country work, in what way will you be a good neighbour. I do not need you to rehash the problems that you face as most of the country is weary with that debate. I need to see how you’re going to fix it and when, and I think that will only start when we hear for ourselves that you accept each other as good neighbour.”
The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland are aching for government that functions. They are also willing to give a fair wind to it. People are constantly finding ways of living with their neighbour. Alan McBride says the real issue preventing a return to sharing power is attitude, “With the right attitude, nothing is insurmountable.” There is nothing to disagree with in that analysis!
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