The Irish President Mary McAleese, in a bid to increase communications across the sectarian divide, has said, "The openness that faces with genuine curiosity the very otherness of others is far from easy to embrace but we have all paid too high a price for insisting on living inside bunkers where only those who agree with us are welcome and where the voices of the excluded other are muted or silent."
The constitution of the Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary system of government, so the President has largely a ceremonial role. Mrs McAleese was the inaugural speaker at the first Conversations Across Walls and Borders event in First Derry Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland, outside the Republic of Ireland. Ms. McAlees is approaching the end of her term as President so this speech may be one of her last addresses to the people of Ireland from the post.
Speaking of the City of Londonderry (also called Derry) she said, "That community, like the family if it is to flourish, if it is to be fair, has to let itself be comfortable with diversity and inclusivity,"
Also, she said, "To open ourselves to stories, narratives, perspectives, talents, genius, insights and friendships which are new to us is to open the doors of our lives to a much more exciting and enriching landscape."
She made these comments in the context of the particular difficulties faced by the people of Londonderry (also called Derry). She said, "It has become easier to talk now. The festering wrong that was Bloody Sunday and the Widgery Report that followed it, left this city raw for decades and made healing so very difficult."
Thirteen men died at these protests in 1972 in Londonderry (also called Derry). The Widgery Tribunal released a report soon after the event and largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame.
"The Saville Report opened up the hard truth of that story and remarkably that truth did indeed set many people free in ways that visibly helped a healing process to take hold. The survivors and the families of those who died were vindicated after a long and dignified struggle and the air we breathed after the British Government's apology was fresh and energising."
The Saville Report was published June 15, 2010 and concluded that no stones and no petrol bombs were hurled by protestors before the British soldiers shot at them, and that the civilians were not posing any threat.
Mary McAleese continued with, "On the day following the publication of the Saville Report the leaders of the protestant churches in this city met with the victims and bereaved of Bloody Sunday. We looked on amazed, our hearts lifting as generosity and compassion began to flow spontaneously in both directions. We watched the basic building blocks of peace and reconciliation shift into place, lifted painfully by the only powers that can create peace - human hands and human hearts, bridging the gap of division and difference with humanity and decency."
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