Belfast Telegraph

Father Martin Magill: For us to really share this society will mean we won't get everything we want, that's part of life

DUP leader Arlene Foster with Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald at the funeral of Lyra McKee
DUP leader Arlene Foster with Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald at the funeral of Lyra McKee

Fr Martin Magill

My first impressions of the deal are very positive - this is very much what local people have been asking for in terms of addressing some of the really big issues.

Going back to Lyra McKee's funeral and the hope that was generated by the talks that began nine months ago, I am very encouraged by what I've read so far.

There seems to be no doubt that Lyra's tragic death in those terrible circumstances, the funeral afterwards and the public reaction ... certainly have been galvanising features.

The politicians have finally delivered - not just for Lyra, but for wider society as well - and I think Lyra would have been proud; but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

So far, it seems to be a fine document containing keynote points around health, education, tackling paramilitarism, addiction and mental health issues.

That pleases me very much but how does that translate down to the people affected at grass roots level?

I'm keen to give the deal a very warm welcome and to encourage it, but at the same time we've really got to see how that's going to play out on the ground and how it will affect ordinary people.

What difference will this make to people in Creggan, for example, where Lyra died?

I'm aware that parts of Belfast, other parts of Northern Ireland, including Creggan, might be saying, 'Peace Process? What Peace Process? How has it benefited us?'

We've really got to see the tangible differences on the ground in people's lives.

The politicians have a huge responsibility moving forward, but those of us in leadership throughout society have a part to play as well.

We can be very critical of our politicians and at times they, like the rest of us, deserve it.

But we also need to be careful that we don't cross over lines where we start demonising them or attacking them on a personal level, giving them abuse, or trolling them - and I've seen some of that.

So on the one hand, yes by all means be critical, but at the same time we've got to draw a line and stop when it becomes personal.

We as a society in Northern Ireland have to do some soul-searching when it comes to the issue of compromise because in many ways for us it's a dirty word.

Within politics, or indeed human relationships more generally, compromise is almost essential but we in the past have almost seen compromise as betrayal.

But for us to really share this society - and we always hear about a shared society - it will mean that we won't get everything we want, but that is part of life.

There's something particularly poignant about securing a deal on the third anniversary of Stormont's collapse.

I despise the phrase two communities. If it ever made sense, it no longer makes any sense. We're becoming more and more diverse, more multicultural and I welcome that.

Inevitably, we're now beginning to see our society in a new way and so the old sense of what's maybe referred to as orange and green has become well past its sell-by date.

We need a new way of being together - hopefully this deal represents the first step into a more progressive future.

As told to Claire McNeilly

Belfast Telegraph


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