Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Typhoon Haiyan: 'If you want a Northern Ireland shaped by generosity, then donate'

Lord Mayor of Belfast Mairtin O Muilleoir with Anna Ligan, whose family is missing in the Philippines, as he opens a book of condolence in memory of the victims of Typhoon Haiyan
Lord Mayor of Belfast Mairtin O Muilleoir with Anna Ligan, whose family is missing in the Philippines, as he opens a book of condolence in memory of the victims of Typhoon Haiyan

Northern Ireland hits the news headlines for quite a few things. You can guess that it is mostly negative - police officers attacked, street violence, divided communities.

Yet, despite these negative stories, you will also see Northern Ireland routinely mentioned in a different type of story. It may not get the headlines associated with violence and division, but we are the most generous region for giving to charities in the UK.

Even in the midst of challenging economic times, eight out of every 10 of us in Northern Ireland donates to charity. It's a reminder that even after a grim year of protests and division, our society shares a strong core of generosity, compassion and solidarity.

Watching the pictures and listening to the stories that have emerged from the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, we are reminded that generosity, compassion and solidarity are essential for any community that seeks to be a good society.

There would be something very wrong if we were unmoved by the scenes of devastation, loss and hopelessness. Hardheartedness in the face of such suffering would offer little hope that we in Northern Ireland could aspire to be a society with any sense of the common good.

Our response to the disaster and tremendous suffering in the Philippines, then, says something twofold. Firstly, obviously, it speaks of our concern for those robbed of the basic necessities of life - shelter, food, water.

Secondly, it also points to what sort of society we want here in Northern Ireland. Giving to those charities bringing aid to the Philippines may seem like an act very far removed from the politics of Northern Ireland. It's not. It is, actually, a statement of hope. It says that there is such a thing as the common good - that compassion, fairness, justice, opportunity are not just important for 'me' ... but for 'us'.

I would encourage you, then, to donate something to UNICEF or the Red Cross, to Christian Aid or Trócaire, supporting their efforts to bring relief to those caught up in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. And be encouraged when you do it: your act of giving is also saying that you want a Northern Ireland shaped by the spirit of generosity.


 

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