President Higgins’ snub is a slap in the face for the Belfast deal
The extent to which President Higgins’ decision not to attend a church service in Armagh next month alongside Queen Elizabeth to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary was defended last week suggests that the toxin from l The anti-Britain has spread much further in the blood of Irish public opinion than even the most pessimistic observers would have suspected.
iggins says he decided not to go because the event had “in fact become a political statement,” but calling it a “fact” doesn’t make it true.
This is a president who has politicized the post he has held from day one, seeing it as a platform from which to spring the chimerical student socialist beliefs that he has espoused his entire career.
Last week, during a state visit to Italy, the president was photographed at the grave of his great hero, Marxist ideologist Antonio Gramsci, whose words he often quotes in speeches.
It is certainly a political act.
Tackling the hook by retorting that the DUP’s criticism of him was “a little too much” was also political, as was attending the funeral in Derry for IRA chief Martin McGuinness, and congratulating Fidel Castro on whose regime was condemned by Amnesty for its “systemic repression of fundamental freedoms”.
Yet is a church service in the North what he chooses to take a stand on?
So much for the Shared Island unit at Taoiseach. What is the island shared with if not Northern Ireland?
Most enthusiastic supporters of the ‘Áras says no’ presidential strategy insist that the creation of Northern Ireland 100 years ago was not then, and still is not now, something to celebrate . But the event that Higgins snubbed was not a pro-union triumphalist feast, but a solemn religious service hosted by the five major churches, including the Catholic Church, “with an emphasis on their common Christian commitment to peace, healing and reconciliation “.
Placing the event under the aegis of the churches was meant to defuse and depoliticize feelings
To claim that attending would in any way be a retrospective endorsement of Partition, let alone the way Northern Ireland was ruled over the following decades, is bizarre.
Was the Queen’s laying of a wreath in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance during her State visit in 2011 an endorsement of the fight against British rule?
Was President Higgins’ meeting with the Pope at the Vatican last week a validation of everything the Catholic Church has done?
Some have even insisted that it would be perverse for the president of any country to attend an event that marked the division of his own country, but it is also a red herring.
Higgins was born in 1941. The country of his birth has never been shared. Indeed, there are only a handful of people still alive in Ireland who can claim that “their” country has been divided. The others grew up on an island that has always been divided.
And even if it didn’t, should the Palestinians never even recognize the existence of Israel?
Do those who live in half of Cyprus always have to pretend that the people on the other side of the island are just not there? Should India still snub Pakistan, also born of partition? Where does this absurdity end? This is how ethnocentric nostalgia poisons the well of reconciliation.
Diplomacy consists of going beyond traditional divisions. No one asks the Queen if she personally approves of the events she attends or the people she meets there.
She does so because it is her duty, as it should have been President Higgins’ duty to attend an event which the Non-Confessional Alliance of the North said was designed to conform to the “inclusive approach.” »Previous initiatives undertaken by the British and Irish heads of state.
It should be remembered that the Belfast Accord was ratified by the Irish people 13 years before Michael D became president in 2011.
This agreement commits all parties to accept that “Northern Ireland in its entirety remains part of the United Kingdom” and to uphold “the legitimacy of any choice freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland”.
Many who enthusiastically embraced the deal at the time and rejoiced in the following years to pocket the concessions it entailed, such as greater North / South cooperation and a greater role for Dublin in the Northern Irish affairs now seem to forget that with these privileges came corresponding responsibilities in the form of a commitment to “partnership, equality and mutual respect”.
Higgins’ decision to boycott a church service whose sole purpose was to find a way to mark Northern Ireland’s 100th anniversary without causing further divisions is a slap in the face of the Belfast Accord itself.
More seriously, in defending its withdrawal, part of the average opinion has turned its back on the principle, supposedly adopted in 1998, that states acquire their legitimacy through the current consent of the people who live there, and not through archaic folk memories. .
More than two decades after the Republic democratically abandoned its claim to the six counties, the harmful questions of territory and allegiance have been brought back to the heart of Irish politics by a sitting President.
It would be better if Higgins spent less time revising socialist theory and re-reading more of his own inaugural speech in 2011 when he said he wanted to “serve as a symbol of an Irish identity that we can all be proud of”.
The Irishness on display last week was narrow, petty, ungenerous – contrary to what he said, entering the Aras on the eve of the “decade of commemoration”, required us all to “be sensitive to the different and incomplete versions of history”.
Higgins may have said he wanted “an Ireland we can feel a part of”, but trade unionists are increasingly being told that they can only feel a part of the glorious new Ireland by giving up its place. they already feel deeply rooted.
It shows how far back we have come since the Queen’s historic visit.
Just days after the DUP was criticized for withdrawing all North / South cooperation except health, Ireland at the highest level officially takes umbrage at the imaginary slights, as if it were the only country to never had to deal with such tangled issues.
As Pakistani-Canadian writer Anam Zakaria wrote of his own country’s tragic legacy: “There is no singular narrative of the score.
For Pakistan, it was the birth of a nation. For India, “the break-up of the homeland”. Both versions are equally right and wrong.
Ireland should be mature enough to recognize that complex and contradictory truth.