Friday 19 April 2019

SF leader speaks of reconciliation space

Ciara Galvin

Poppies adorned the pews of Calry Church on The Mall as students and guests of Sligo Grammar School took their seats for the Act of Remembrance and Reconciliation last Wednesday which was attended by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and the German Ambassador to Ireland.

Commemorating the centenary of Armistice Day, service men, politicians and dignitries laid wreaths in memory of the fallen.

Over 600 Sligo men lost their lives in WWI, with some having attended the school, those past pupils were named and remembered during the poignant service.

A chilling rendition of Adagio for Strings by the school's choir was performed while images of WWI, graves, and war memorials were projected onto screens.

Following this, Headmaster Michael Hall highlighted the importance of remembering all who lost their lives, regardless of political or religious leanings.

"It is a time to remember when young men and women from all faiths, and none, stood side by side."

Mr Hall outlined that between 15 and 19 million people lost their lives during the war which took place from 1914 to 1918.

The headmaster talked of reconciliation and a 'shared future' going forward.

He said the commemorative event was also important to recognise those within the Defence Forces, past pupils of the school and members of An Garda Síochána who lost their lives in the course of duty.

A wreath was laid by Chairman of the Boards, Revd. Canon Noel Regan on behalf of Sligo Grammar past pupils who fell in WWI. German Ambassador to Ireland, Frau Deike Potzel also laid a wreath, along with leader of Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald, among others.

Speaking to The Sligo Champion following the wreath laying, the Sinn Féin leader said it was important to remember what she described as 'a catastrophe'.

"It's a century on from a catastrophe where a whole generation was laid low and we all have different persepectives on that war, to me it was not a great war it was an imperial blood letting."

Describing the war as a 'gash in the memory', McDonald said regardless of differing political perspectives, respectfully remembering those who lost their lives is important, along with reconciliation going forward.

"It's so important that we create a space for reconciliation.

"It's important for me as the leader of Sinn Féin, as an Irish republican, to be here and stand with others who come from a different view in respectful remembrance, that matters to me a great deal."

Asked how important it is for these commemoration events to take place cross border, the leader said 'extremely imortant'.

"We're moving into, in many ways, unchartered territory in terms of Irish history, in terms of, in my view, the ending of partition and the beginning of a new Ireland.

"And I have always said I want an inclusive, respectful conversation, and this is part of that."

Attending alonside the Sinn Féin President, Cllr Chris McManus described the event as 'poignant and inclusive'.

"Having been involved in peace and reconciliation work for over fifteen years, I know much of the effort involved requires, at times, difficult conversations and having to step out of our comfort zones," said Cllr McManus.

Head Girl at Sligo Grammar School, Juno Ellison said the event was a chance to commemorate past students.

"They gave us the peace that we have now. It's important to remember that it's not too far detached from what we know today, it was people my age that had to go off and give their lives to afford us this peace," said the student.

Following the event at Calry Church, a tree planting ceremony took place on the grounds of the school.

Sligo Champion