I was disappointed as I listened to Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen presenting their vision for Northern Ireland: how fortunate the North for having such a privileged economic position, we were told.
Northern Ireland is not an economic question, it is an emotional one. The DUP will not accept this offer. They want their hearts listened to more than business and trade deals. They want the Ian Paisley “listen to and understand our history” and similar speakers on both sides of the Peace Line who know and love their people and are ready to know and love the others. They want to laugh and cry and pray together, make friends across the divide, across the Peace Line.
Twice I gave 10-day parish missions in St Agnes, Andersontown, in West Belfast in the time of the Troubles. We had mass three times a day, a crowded church, and we prayed and longed for peace. One of the parish explained simply: “The problem and the solution in Northern Ireland is friendship. I am a Catholic and my best friend is a Protestant. That’s us. Friendship is the answer. We can stand together on the Peace Line and make peace a reality.”
The men and women of violence and the drugs gangs are the enemies of Northern Ireland: the everyday kindness of neighbours is the quiet constant healing. Two families told me of having Ian Paisley as their MP and how kind and helpful he was. The good voices in Northern Ireland are full of longing for justice and kindness and consider that more important than economic talk. The people need protection from violence, drugs gangs, robberies, as we all do, and they have a brave police force appreciated by the people for the courage with which it tries to protect them.
I longed for Rishi and Ursula to understand that Geoffrey Donaldson has a Northern Ireland heart that beats faster than trade deals.
God bless us heart and mind,
(4th March 2023)