Duncan Morrow speaks at Macartan 1500 Lecture

Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council at the Clinton Centre recently

Dr Duncan Morrow

The Clinton Centre, Enniskillen was the setting last Thursday (22nd February) for one in a series of public lectures which are part of the Macartan 1500 project, celebrating a Millennium and a half since the death of Clogher Diocese's patron saint - St Macartan. Dr Duncan Morrow, Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council gave an excellent and very thought provoking talk followed by a question and answer session to a receptive audience. His talk very much focused on the religious and political context of Ireland, both internally and globally and the challenges of diversity and tolerance.

He began his address by talking about the need for people to feel safe and how in recent times people have found a perceived feeling of safety through identifying with those who are similar. "How do we find ways of making people feel safe in a world that we feel uncertain about? "Home gives us an idea of safety…but home is now changing and this is an issue which goes beyond Northern Ireland, it is now a global challenge," said Dr Morrow.

Dr Morrow explained that diversity and tolerance are not just ideas or concepts they are practical outcomes built on quality meetings and the challenge is finding ways to allow for opportunities to engage with each other in a deep and worthwhile way.

"The result of the easing of conflict is that Northern Ireland is now a place where people are willing to move to, rather than the past trend where many people emigrated from Ireland." He described that in 1989 about 50,000 people emigrated away where as more recently statistics indicated that in 2004 up to 90,000 people arrived!

"The Northern Ireland experience is something that the rest of the world now faces. At least we have a greater realism of what it is that we may face and we bring with us a glimmer of hope that we can cope with this.

"We have learnt from our experiences that the challenge is to bring out into the open those things that matter where we recognise each other as human beings rather than those who win and those who lose."

He posed the question particularly to the churches given the Clogher Diocese's coordination of the event, "If Churches are where people meet, are the meetings sufficiently deep enough to be effective?"

He said that politicians have a difficult challenge ahead where they must enable groups to have difficult but rewarding conversations together while representing their constituents appropriately.

"It is important that society refuses violence and considers it as a last resort rather than a first resort… good politics is about having the conflict in a structured environment and not on the streets." he said.

Ending positively he explained that despite so many years of conflict, Northern Ireland is now far less pessimistic about the future, well educated young people are now returning to Northern Ireland to pursue their careers and we can look upon ourselves as taking steps towards a success story where other countries would not have coped after such a long duration of conflict. Thankfully we have learnt from our experiences and can use this to embrace ourselves for the changes ahead.

This was one of a number of Macartan 1500 public lectures coordinated by Clogher Diocese featuring renowned speakers of both local and international standing and part financed by the European Union through the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation and managed for the Special EU Programmes Body by the Northern Ireland Rural Development Council (RDC).

Date: 23 February