Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Remembrance must transcend tribalism

Editor's Viewpoint

The centenary of the Armistice of November 11, 1918, was commemorated with great sensitivity and dignity across Northern Ireland and further afield, as our long search for a permanent peace continues.

The commemorations provided much food for thought. There were the haunting images of Danny Boyle's artistic Pages of the Sea, with the portraits of First World War Ulster rifleman John McCance in the sand at Murlough Bay, and nurse Rachel Ferguson at Downhill beach.

Time and tide wait for no one, but what is so wonderful and right is the enduring sense of remembrance and - in many ways during this Armistice centenary - the rediscovery of the almost unbelievable sacrifice in two World Wars, and in the many conflicts since then.

This sense of rediscovery is having a profound influence on this island. For many nationalists there was a communal amnesia and unease about wearing a poppy.

Fortunately, times are changing and in 2018 we are more willing to accept that our historical complexity defies the simplicities of tribal myths and political posturings.

In this context it was significant that Tanaiste Simon Coveney and Irish Cabinet minister Heather Humphreys paid their respects at Belfast and Enniskillen Cenotaphs.

Politicians from across the spectrum, including nationalists, paid their respects at a number of venues. The only sour note came from Sinn Fein which, for depressingly self-serving reasons, failed to take part.

Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin made history by preaching in St Anne's Cathedral during its cross-community Armistice service yesterday, and in a powerful sermon reminded us of what we have in common, rather than that which divides us.

He referred to the sacrifices of the Great War and said those who died "have bequeathed us a shared responsibility for healing the past, and building lasting trust and peace".

Sadly our politics are still riven by division nationally and at home, as fear and uncertainty hangs over the Brexit outcome. Our forefathers shed blood to build a new Europe, and the sombre events of this weekend have shown that post-Brexit we can still have a pivotal role in the search for peace and progress. That is the most noble way we can honour those who have bravely gone before us, and paid the supreme sacrifice in doing so.

Belfast Telegraph

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