OPINION: Why is the Shared Island Unit so important?
Asking this question is like asking why is the future important. The answer is obvious because it is everything. The future is the only thing we can change.
For the first time in the history of this State, a Taoiseach created a dedicated unit with its sole purpose to look at how we on this island can work closer together across the entire Island; to create the synergies through capital projects, through research on topics like education, healthcare on both sides of the border. That in itself is historic and should be applauded from the rooftops.
The Unit is entirely dedicated to harnessing the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement to enhance cooperation on the island and engage with all communities and traditions to build consensus around a shared future.
This shared future is the only thing that is absolute the only thing that is for sure. The Orange and the Green are on this island and it looks like neither are going anywhere, so we have the responsibility to work together acknowledging that we don’t know what the constitutional relationship will be in future.
The outcome of any so called ‘border poll” is not a given. I know I will vote YES for a re-united island any and every day of the week. But I’m not the demographic we need to convince.
The south of Ireland has Republican status; that is far more than a label. It’s the Republican values and ideals that are important. Those ideals are not something Unionists or Loyalists should fear.
They are however very correct to fear the polarisation of some parties on the Island. Some who purport to be Republican clearly do not know or understand what our traditional Republicanism is.
I look to our flag and see the green and the orange and know that the white places upon me a responsibility to respect and maybe ironic for some to hear; to protect the orange.
During this period of centenary events, we should take our Republicanism back. We need to harvest that passion and pride, and indeed the hurt and pain aswell. The crop of this harvest should be used for good.
Let us make this new century the first century that this island will be at peace. It is our responsibility to ensure that our children's children live in a country where we have true Republican ideals.
For me, those ideals come from the Proclamation of Independence and its promise to guarantee religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, cherishing all the children of the nation equally being oblivious of the differences.
To achieve the future we want; means we must work now to create the change. That is what this Government is doing, and the Shared Island Unit is a vocal point of that work.
Unfortunately, there are too many dreamers wrapped up in a debate about the future of the Island. Dreamers don’t create. They wander aimlessly; pointing out the problems expecting to wake up in some sort of Utopia.
While others work to make changes, others dream and gatekeep. I challenge you all not to buy into this division. Don’t get wrapped up in simplistic arguments as nothing is ever simple.
I am a passionate Republican. It is why I was interested in politics in the first place, and I know if we look to the future of this Island with a Republican lens, we will be well our way to the dream of those who created this state a century ago.
From Daniel O'Connell to Padraig Pearse; the concept of equality has been a constant theme on this island for over two centuries now.
We owe it to those who came before and more importantly to our children to work to do to create an equal future.
It is rare that good things come easy and considering that I think we need start the new century by examining and ripping apart everything we believed to be true, ripping apart all the prejudices and learned behaviour we have had over the past 100 years and look forward with optimism and true, inclusive republican values.
We need to re-examine how this country does its business, from how we treat people with disabilities, women and children to how we react to climate change and work towards a re-united Ireland.
Only with a re-examination of how we work on this island will we ever be able to express our true republican identity in an inclusive and fair way.
We need to continue to back this country, its people - all its people and all its cultures. That is what the Shared Island does and I congratulate our Fianna Fáil leader An Taoiseach Micheál Martin on this historic and hugely significant initiative.
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