Belfast Telegraph

The terrible events of recent weeks have underlined need for co-ordinated action

Ronnie Kells, chair of the Sir George Quigley fund committee; Lady Moyra Quigley; and Professor Duncan Morrow, Ulster University. (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA).
Ronnie Kells, chair of the Sir George Quigley fund committee; Lady Moyra Quigley; and Professor Duncan Morrow, Ulster University. (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA).

By Duncan Morrow

When I was first approached and commissioned to undertake this review two years ago by the Sir George Quigley Fund, Northern Ireland still had a functioning Executive.

With fresh talks now underway to seek to restore power sharing, our review and conference is timely in calling for a comprehensive action plan to address sectarianism, including placing it alongside the economy as a government priority.

The political context and urgency could hardly be more apt. The border and the constitutional frameworks are once again at the core of the wider political landscape.

More tragically, the terrible events of recent weeks have emphasised again that a co-ordinated focus must be brought to this issue if we are ever to come out from under the shadow of violence and hatred.

Unquestionably, sectarianism remains an unresolved and serious issue; never far from the surface and still punctuating our relative peace. Over the decades there have been many individuals and groups whose commitment and efforts to bring about change have been significant, determined and often unrecognised; many of them joining our conference discussions.

Working as I do in Northern Ireland's civic university with its long standing commitment to peace and conflict research and studies, I am surrounded daily by the hope and optimism of young people born after the Good Friday Agreement. Civic and political leadership has a duty of care to ensure that the expectation, aspiration and potential of the next and future generations is met, and not diminished by sectarian polarisation.

The voice of experience reflects a well trodden path of those who have worked tirelessly to tackle this, and the voice of young people is essential to remind us all just what is at stake.

Proposals on their own will not secure an end to sectarianism, but if the sum is potentially more powerful that than its many valued parts, we need a catalyst for harnessing the very best of this to achieve the step change needed.

There could be no finer outcome in honour of the late Sir George Quigley and the very many thought leaders who have brought their commitment to this scourge over the decades, than to see civic society galvanised into action to eradicate the sectarianism that can drive us apart and hold us back. Simply hoping that it will go away is not an option.

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