Inclusion the only way forward
Comments to the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Wexford, 8 Februrary 2014
Is namhaid againn í an mhíchothramaíocht agus an éagóir inár gcathracha agus inár dtír, is gá mar sin go dtabharfaimis tús áite don chath in aghaidh na boichtíneachta.
Tackling inequality, ensuring everyone can share in the bounty of Belfast is the greatest challenge facing the leadership of our great city today.
That challenge is faced by other cities across the western world where, especially recently, we have seen citizens seek an alternative to the culture of winner-takes-all.
We should welcome this shift because a city divided is a city which is wasting the potential of so many of its people. Inclusion therefore makes economic and societal sense.
In Belfast, we face an additional challenge: how to reconcile a people hurt and wounded by 30 years of unforgiving conflict and enmity.
It’s my view that we must rise to the challenges of expanding the common ground of our city by emphasising the many things which unite us rather than the few things that divide us. In that work we have much to learn from the faith leaders I have met during my term in office.
As I traverse the city of Belfast, I am heartened by the actions of faith leaders who follow the advice of St Francis of Assissi, who said “preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.”
Indeed, the most radical places I visit in the city of Belfast aren’t the offices of political parties but the places where faith groups gather. There I hear talk about the poor, the vulnerable, the lonely, the sick, the imprisoned and the homeless. There I see the generous actions of risk-taking peacemakers who are building a better Belfast on a foundation of equality of respect.
I am not a church-goer but I am an admirer of these selfless faith leaders who have much to teach all political representatives.
They believe in a Belfast of peace, equality and mutual respect. And so do I.
And while I haven’t solutions to every problem our city encounters, I am resolved to be relentlessly positive about Belfast by the leadership of my Buddhist chaplain Paul Haller, who has an indispensable piece of advice for all politicians: “Edit out the negativity.”
Tá sé níos simplí arís sa Ghaeilge “Diúltaimís don diúltachas.”
I commend that advice to this Ard Fheis as we face into a year of elections with our positive message of change.