Bridge objectors missed the point
Published 19/06/2013 | 05:28
I was privileged, albeit in a working capacity, to attend the renaming ceremony of the cable bridge over the river Boyne, in honour of the former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.
I understand, from reading your newspaper and hearing of some radio reports, that a number of councillors in the Drogheda area were unhappy with the renaming of the bridge as a tribute to the work of Mrs McAleese and her husband in the Irish peace process.
One of these was the actual mayor of the town, who objected to it being called after one individual, another from just beside the bridge who disliked the 'personalising' of the bridge.
I think the whole point of the bridge-naming was lost on these objectors, who claim that there is a great deal of dissent to the idea. The symbolism of the bridge naming after a Northern person who became President of the Republic, and who had been working on various peace initiatives long before she ever became President, is the over riding factor in this naming. In her professional capacity, Mary McAleese worked on cross-border structures as far back as the New Ireland Forum. She and her husband, Martin, worked continuously behind the scenes for peace in Ireland, in the non-political, very symbolic role of President. She lived both sides of the border, and experienced the troubles of the North and the peaceful living of the south, and during her time in Aras an Uachtaran, used her position as President to facilitate mediation.
It was telling that, even though the mayor of the nearby town decided he couldn't be bothered going because of a gripe, that the Taoiseach came directly from Helsinki and London to attend the event and pay tribute to Mary McAleese.
Mr Kenny said she became President as the Peace Process was transforming how we saw ourselves and each other on this island of Ireland.
"She worked diligently to ensure that all communities were included, and felt included, in the transformation. The work Mary McAleese and Martin McAleese did for people – on both sides – changed minds, attitudes and lives across the island and across the communities," he added.
It is a pity that in some quarters, a narrow minded and short sighted attitude seems to remain. I hope that the councillors involved in snubbing the event – from which I doubt they were missed – did not do so for the sake of short-term headline grabbing.