Presbyterian church celebrates Northern Ireland’s centenary

The Presbyterian Church of Ireland celebrated the centenary of the creation of Northern Ireland and the partition of Ireland at an event in south Belfast.

The event, titled “On These Steps”, took place at the ICH Union Theological College, which 100 years ago became the first seat of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.

Noting that the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland and therefore of the United Kingdom in its present form is marked in multiple ways, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, the Reverend David Bruce , said the communities “arrive at the crossroads from different places”.

Dr Bruce said some lament the creation of the border on the island, seeing it as an act of political compromise undermining the cause of Irish unity, dooming the island to a new century of violence and sectarian polarization.

However, he said others wanted to celebrate the partition of Ireland as a triumph of “the art of government” which he said was a necessary political act to honor the democratic wishes of the Irish majority. North.

Dr Bruce said reconciliation – repeatedly affirmed in statements and agreements from churches and governments in the past – does not suffer from amnesia.

He noted that the group of church leaders in Ireland regularly meet in the same room, praying together and looking ahead.

Representatives of the group, which includes the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic archbishops, the Methodist president and the president of the Irish Council of Churches, attended the event.

“We honor each other, work hard to listen to each other’s views and acting in this way, we have charted a path to mark this 100th anniversary,” said Dr Bruce.

He described “a multicultural Ireland” to the north and south as “a blessing” and urged people not to be afraid of it.

“What a new Ireland looks like won’t be because someone was victorious, while another was defeated. If it looks like that, it won’t be a new Ireland,” he said. declared.

He acknowledged that Presbyterians do not always agree with others, but expressed the hope that they would not be “so stubborn” that they would like to exclude anyone and be respectful in the face of difference, recognizing the important benefits of a shared space.

Professor Forster of Irish History at the University of Oxford, Professor Ian McBride, also spoke at the event.

He said there was no easy answer to finding constructive ways to commemorate the creation of Northern Ireland 100 years ago and described the partition of Ireland as “a mistaken attempt to reconcile the aspirations of unionists and nationalists “.

The responsibility for its failures, he said, lies with policymakers in Belfast, London and, to some extent, Dublin.

He noted that President Michael D Higgins recently called for the principle of organizing Irish commemorations to be “hospitality of stories”.

However, he said, hospitality “comes more easily in societies that feel at home,” adding that it requires hard work in Northern Ireland, where neither community thinks its right to membership can be taken for granted.

Professor McBride said that in the South, for most, the Centennial Decade has been a remarkably positive and productive process.

The period between Queen Elizabeth’s state visit to the Republic in 2011 and the UK referendum on EU membership in 2016 was an exceptionally good time for the Irish government to recognize the diversity of allegiances Irish women during World War I, while simultaneously asserting the value of his own revolutionary origins in the Easter Rising of 1916, he said.

“The guiding principles of the centennial commemoration were quite laudable: historical accuracy, mutual respect, inclusiveness and reconciliation. This spirit manifested itself, to take just one example, in the “Wall of Remembrance” at Glasnevin Cemetery – where the names of all those who have died have been recorded, regardless of their origin or political allegiance. “

He said that over the decades the mechanisms of denial and evasion have become habitual, rationalizations more practiced, and “whataboutery” has become a competitive sport.

“My hope is that in this centenary year, we can collectively question some of these selfish reflexes. My concern is that by remembering the apparent certainties of 1921, we might forget the messy compromises made in the 1990s, and the reasons why it became necessary to abandon legacy belief systems. “

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