Belfast Telegraph

Remember present as well as past

By Brian Rowan

The event in Belfast Castle was introduced by the former political director at the Northern Ireland Office, Chris Maccabe.

The question was: Centenaries: divisive or healing?

And a short film set the scene for a panel discussion involving republicans Sean Murray, Tom Hartley and Deirdre Hargey, the loyalist Denis Cunningham, and Stephen Gough of the Unionist Centenary Committee. I chaired this part of the programme.

Next year there will be events to mark the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme.

And, a few days ago, inside Belfast Castle, we heard all the right things being said.

The need for conversations, dialogue, not creating further division, treating people with dignity, being sensitive, being responsible.

That message, delivered as part of an event organised by the Belfast Conflict Resolution Consortium, also needs to be heard outside the room.

As Cunningham put it, it needs to be heard beyond "the converted".

And it needs to be said not just by those on last week's panel, but by others in leadership positions - including in politics.

There is a need to create the right mood and tone and that certainly happened last week, but it happened quietly and not on a big enough or on a loud enough stage.

The Belfast police commander Nigel Grimshaw was also in the room and he asked about the bridges between centenaries and the here-and-now; 2016 cannot be forgotten in the remembering of 1916.

The peace process is a work in progress and with much still to be done.

And the main day of this year's marching season is just a fortnight away with continuing disputes over parades and flags.

The term "cultural war" has been written into our dictionaries. It is part of today's unfinished business, that work and process that is still in progress.

At last week's event I said there is nothing in our history that is about 100 years ago, or about yesterday. Everything has a context in the here-and-now.

And I made the point that events don't just remember - they also remind.

  • Brian Rowan is a writer and commentator on security issues

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