Thursday 21 November 2019

Editorial: 'United we fall if we fail to rise to the challenge'

'EU ambassadors have postponed a decision on an extension, seemingly to put pressure on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to back an election.' Photo: Reuters
'EU ambassadors have postponed a decision on an extension, seemingly to put pressure on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to back an election.' Photo: Reuters
Editorial

Editorial

A people without a knowledge of history is said to be akin to a tree without roots. But more important is an understanding of, and sensitivity to, both race and place.

Such awareness will be fundamental to future relationships in these islands.

Magnanimity will be vital to restore the trust that has been stretched by Brexit brinkmanship.

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Such dangers were exposed yesterday when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was asked on Today FM if he would like to see a united Ireland: "I would, but only in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement so that's only with the consent of the majority of people in Northern Ireland," he answered.

But no one would be forced into anything they don't want, he stressed.

British Labour politician David Miliband once said: "I don't speak Hebrew, but I understand that it has no word for 'history'. The closest word for it is memory."

Memory has the habit of snapping as tight as a bear-trap when trod upon in the North.

Mr Varadkar said: "We need to make sure that unionists in Northern Ireland and British people in Northern Ireland feel that a united Ireland is a warm place for them."

The phrase a "united Ireland" is lazily taken for granted. At its heart lies a moral challenge. To be "united" requires agreement not coercion, co-operation without contrivance, community without threat.

As Mr Varadkar pointed out: "We don't want to have a repeat of what happened 100 years ago when a minority were left behind."

They say people are as much trapped in history as history is trapped in them.

But moving forward can be agonisingly slow. There is an argument the pace befits the pitfalls of the perilous terrain being travelled. UK Chancellor Sajid Javid expects an EU delay of three months on Brexit. He said Britain was stuck in a "zombie Parliament" and that the UK needed to put end to its dysfunction through a general election.

But EU ambassadors have postponed a decision on an extension, seemingly to put pressure on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to back an election.

Brussels is saying implicitly the decision on duration must depend on some kind of movement. Clarity on UK intentions is still awaited. Hard experience shows how many of the worst events in history were caused not by intent, but rather by indifference.

People who might have done something failed to recognise their role or chose to ignore it. According to Tolstoy, the ascent of humanity can be summarised as a succession of victories of consciousness over blind forces. Blind forces have had too great a say in shaping the direction of things. Today and tomorrow must be about keeping our eyes open to the obligations of finding a path together.

Irish Independent

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