Make July 12 a national holiday, urges McDowell
JULY 12 should be added to St Patrick's Day as a national holiday, a former Tanaiste told the MacGill Summer School.
Former Progressive Democrats' leader Michael McDowell told delegates in Glenties, Co Donegal, yesterday that more work had to be done south of the border to embrace the Orange tradition.
He suggested that, with a good start having been made in turning the site of the Battle of the Boyne at Oldbridge, Co Meath, into a national monument, it might now be time to make the 12th a national holiday right across the country.
"I think if we are genuine republicans, if the Orange panel on the flag means anything, we have to consider building an inclusive society," he said.
He challenged government ministers to travel to the North on the day of the annual Protestant celebration commemorating the famed Boyne battle.
"If Irish government ministers can go all the way around the world to St Patrick's Day parades, maybe the time has come for them to acknowledge that north of the border, one community has a big national festival, and maybe an Irish government minister could make the physical journey and the mental journey there," he said.
In his address entitled 'A Meditation on the Flag', Mr McDowell warned there still was "a significant danger" of a return to conflict from people trying to wreck the Good Friday Agreement.
"These days when a small group of 'dissident' political psychopaths and cynical would-be revolutionaries cling to the belief that Mother Ireland is still crying for the blood of Irish police constables in the North and that she wants to keep alive the prospect of some future Balkan-style inter-communal blood bath there, we Republicans cannot remain as passive spectators when we are called on to be friends," he said.
Mr McDowell paid tribute to President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin for the "leadership and example" they had shown in building bridges between the Irish State and the Orange and loyalist people of the North.
"Mary and Martin McAleese have shown that they take the Orange panel of the tricolour seriously. I deeply regret to say that their early efforts in this direction were initially viewed with suspicion by elements within the Irish establishment who favoured a more traditional role, not merely for the presidency, but also for the old attitudes," he said.
Mr McDowell also questioned where "the Orange" was on Irish State boards and why they were so "few and far between" in the Seanad when they were so well provided for in the Free State Senate.