Commission a memorial for all: Mitchel McLaughlin’s “Hope and History”
by Raquel GOMEZ
26 June 2018
Former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mitchel McLaughlin, delivered his first speech at Queen’s University Belfast, as an honorary professor of Peace Studies at the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security, and Justice. Professor Richard English welcomed everybody and introduced McLaughlin’s first public lecture, entitled “Hope and History”, as part of the Queen’s Policy Engagement series.
The speech was a timeline that started in the late 1960s; outlined the issues, which currently lead the political and social sphere; and raised different ways for the future.
McLaughlin described 1968 as “the beginning of the Troubles and a reflection of missed opportunities for peaceful progress”.
From the present moment of “political transition” and looking at the future, Brexit became a key topic of the speech.
To deal with present problems, according to McLaughlin, political engagement and dialogue are essential, and there is an “imperative of parties to come together again, and again until they find a way forward”.
“I believe that we are now entering a defining period in Irish political history. Brexit presents enormous economic problems that compel us to put all the available options on the table. We may, if we have the courage, actually have a unique opportunity to create a future beyond division and sectarianism and build a dispensation that serves the interests of all the people who share this island,” said McLaughlin.
Furthermore, the former Stormont Speaker emphasised hope for a future where past divisions can be overcome: “If acceptance of a shared history remains a formidable challenge for this generation, the concept of a shared future may be a more achievable outcome.”
Finally, McLaughlin suggested building a memorial for all those killed in the conflict. suggesting a sculpture, perhaps modelled on the Washington Memorial Wall, on which could be inscribed the names of every person killed as a result of the 30 years’ war that ended in 1998. This specially commissioned artwork would enable every victim’s family to visit the site and to remember and respect and would immortalise the names of all those who had died, of whatever nationality, combatants and non-combatants, those who were killed in Ireland and those who were killed elsewhere.”