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Thoughts at @The_JHS There has been calcification of segregation – attitudes have hardened; the peace is more brittle

25/07/2017

John Hewitt – you must always take the opportunity to cross to the other side of the road

There was a definite buzz about the John Hewitt International Summer School this week. There is still a passion for talking politics, of taking small steps to reconciliation, and pushing boundaries in how to break existing silos.

The In Dreams Begin Responsibilities concert at the end of its first day was powerful. It struck a balance between the horrors of the ‘70s and ‘80s and the optimism and hope of the Good Friday Agreement.

It spoke less to the doldrums of more recent years when there has been little wind in the sails for reconciliation; this could be the lost opportunity generation when there was policy failure to tackle segregation systemically.

The panel before the In Dreams Begin Responsibilities concert was equally fascinating; both uplifting and unsettling.

Seamus Mallon, Doug Beattie, Naomi Long and Steven Agnew made impressive and far-sighted contributions. They spoke passionately about the need to end segregation in education, make reconciliation central to the policy agenda as it had been central to the Good Friday Agreement, and spoke candidly about politics in 2017.

The stand-out phrase, amongst many others, was delivered by Seamus Mallon: Let us be good ancestors rather than good rememberers.

We remember and commemorate so much and we want to do it justice, on all sides of the community, at many points in our shared past.

When our grandchildren’s grandchildren look back on this phase in history, will they see their ancestors as having made seminal, relational change?

Or will they see ancestors and leaders that remembered the past but failed to create a better future?

So far, the big ticket issues have been failed.

As it stands, this is the lost opportunity generation.

This generation, since the Agreement, has so far been defined by an inadequate reconciliation policy, strategies that have failed to strategise, and a politics that has calcified and poisoned the atmosphere.

There has been a calcification of segregation – attitudes have hardened and the peace has become more brittle.

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