No Drama

A Letter From Ireland

a Chara,

This week was my first visit to Stormont since the Assembly and Executive was reconvened. I traveled with the leadership of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. They have been consistent visitors to Ireland as witnesses to conflict, injustice, and now peace.

I know Stormont well. I first visited in 1998 after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Given its history, it was an uncomfortable environment for Irish Republicans. But we aren’t there to assimilate into the history and culture. We are there to bring about change.

The great entrance hall is overlooked by an imposing statue of James Craig. He was a staunch pro-British unionist, sectarian bigot, and First Prime Minister in the newly partitioned Ireland. He infamously declared the Stormont Parliament would be, “a protestant parliament for a protestant people.” Today unionism no longer has an overall majority. It is a parliament of equals. A shared place.

On the day we visited the Sinn Féin Finance Minister, Caoimhe Archibald was leading a debate on a Budget Bill. Members and staff milled about on their way to Committees and offices. No drama, and a lot of busy people.

We were there to meet the Sinn Féin Vice-President and First Minister Michelle O’Neill. For 15 years Sinn Féin held the title of Deputy First Minister. Michelle is now First Minister. With the new title came a new office on the opposite side of the building.

Having spent 15 years going in and out of the old office it felt odd walking in the opposite direction. A bit like taking a new way home. A subtle physical manifestation of political change. Once inside it was down to business, discussing the future and opportunities and challenges.

I suppose that is the thing with change—it can happen with a bang but people quickly find their level, and work continues.

The partition that James Craig supported has been politically and economically disastrous. It has failed the test of time. One of the impacts has been a disjointed and disconnected infrastructure across the island.

In welcome news, the Irish Government announced an investment of the equivalent of 650 million dollars in a road through the north that links Dublin to Donegal. In the nonsense of partition, it is a road linking the South to the South by going through the North!

Funding for other projects was also announced including 50 million dollars for a new stadium for Ulster GAA to replace the derelict Casement Park in Belfast. There are nine counties in Ulster with six in the North and three in the South. This will go towards building a state-of-the-art stadium for all nine counties.

It will take investment to undo the damage of over one hundred years of partition. The benefits will be to the immediate communities as well as to the Island as a whole.

This week was a good week, as change embeds and progress is made.

I’ll take a week of no drama any time.

Have a great weekend.  

Is mise,

Ciarán

Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.

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