Canadian Thanksgiving Day Re-opening for Glencree's
Chairman of Bombardier Aerospace and its Charitable Foundation
in Northern Ireland Sir George Quigley (centre) is flanked from
the left by Irish Canadian Society Deputy Chair Dave Wilson and
Glencree Centre for Reconciliation CEO Mairin Colleary and on his
right by Irish Canadian Society Chair Pat McDonnell and Canada's
Ambassador to Ireland Mark Moher at the official re-opening of the
Canada Room, Glencree's principal reception and meeting room. The
refurbishment of the Room, an Irish Canadian Society project, was
funded by the Bombardier Foundation.
Glencree was founded during the Northern Ireland 'troubles'. Over
the years, it has fostered mutual respect and understanding between
individuals and groups in conflict, with a view to building peace
and reconciliation within the island of Ireland, between Ireland
and Britain and beyond.
The Irish Canadian Society described the Canada Room's refurbishment
and re-opening ceremony as 'poetic': the refurbishment was funded
by a Canadian company active in the economies of both Ireland and
Northern Ireland and the re-opening took place on Canadian Thanksgiving
Sir George's Address
CANADA ROOM RE-OPENING
GLENCREE CENTRE FOR RECONCILIATION
Sir George Quigley
10 October, 2005
As Chairman of Bombardier Aerospace and of its Charitable Foundation
in Northern Ireland, I am delighted to be involved in this ceremony.
We were very pleased to support the refurbishment of this Canada
Room, which has been so superbly executed.
I am sure that the ability to make use of this renewed facility
will give added impetus to the work of the Glencree Centre, now
in its thirty-first year of fine service to the cause of reconciliation
in Ireland through a range of imaginative programmes involving churches,
women, students, victims, ex-combatants, politicians and business.
It is difficult to conceive of a nobler mission in today's Ireland
than that of reconciliation. Most people know in their hearts that,
however unrealistic the project for reconciliation may at times
appear, permanent enmity is an even more unrealistic scenario. We
must not condemn ourselves forever to paying the bills run up long
before we were born. So we have to keep on reaching out for the
apparently unattainable if we are to avoid the unimaginable. Most
people want what someone involved years ago in the earlier Middle
East peace talks called the quiet miracle of a normal life. There
are too many still not leading normal lives in Northern Ireland.
Whilst remarkable progress has been made, there is a lot more work
yet to be done on the problem of how an acutely differentiated society
like ours can hold itself together. We should have learnt by now
that the removal of the bulk of the violence does not, in itself,
provide an answer, since the violence itself emerged from a divided
We should not be surprised that we are still some way from the summit
and that the final ascent is proving arduous. Few societies so deeply
divided have faced the challenge of absorbing so much change so
quickly. Too often all of us are guilty of the attitude beautifully
described by Mark Twain: I'm all for progress but I hate change.
It is easy to treasure the illusion that, to address a problem,
we simply have to define it in terms suggesting change on somebody
The Good Friday Agreement was obviously a watershed. One would
have liked it to serve as our foundation myth - a story, an event,
that embodies a shared meaning and can claim allegiance from both
communities. It was, in a sense, a marriage of the two traditions.
But don't they say that all weddings are happy; it's living together
afterwards that's difficult. When trust between the partners breaks
down and mutual infidelities are alleged, restoration is difficult.
But one would have to be a congenital pessimist not to feel that
the very welcome developments over recent months on the Republican
side offer a real chance. There has been too much bitterness to
make reconciliation easy or swift. But it is far better that the
future should now be solidly built to last than that there should
be a superficial fudge which contains the seeds of another rupture.
Only then can the benefits of the innovative efforts of so many
over the past 10 years be fully reaped and Northern Ireland's splendid
potential be released.
One of the very positive elements of the Peace Process has been
the success of the North/South project. The progress made by Inter-Trade
Ireland and the interaction between business in both parts of the
island testifies to that on the economic front. Steps are being
taken to develop an island energy market. One could cite many other
very practical examples of a determination on all sides to ensure
that the opportunities for extracting maximum synergy from a positive
relationship between North and South are fully grasped. Even more
important, the tone and temper of North/South dialogue has been
Indeed it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the North/South
project has not only surmounted the traditional barriers erected
by difference but also has lessons to teach for the reconciliation
project within Northern Ireland. Perhaps one of the most important
of these lessons is that difference does not cut all the way down
through every possible relationship between one's group and those
who are different. There is generally much which can be agreed and
shared and the challenge then is to practise and to cultivate acceptance
of the differences to which solutions remain elusive.
Dare I suggest, paradoxically perhaps, that the North/South project
- to which Glencree has contributed so much - offers hope that,
in Seamus Heaney's words, 'a further shore is reachable from here'
- hope which releases us from the entail of history and assures
us that there is no inexorable continuity between past and future.
The negative events of last month undoubtedly dealt such hope a
harsh but certainly not a lethal blow. I was not surprised. I became
very conscious of the sheer depth of the fault lines, reflecting
a deeply riven society, during my Review of the Parades Commission
(Report published November 2002). In subsequent evidence to the
Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of the House of Commons on the
Parades Issue (January 2004), I drew attention to Survey material
showing that, over time, the proportion of Catholics agreeing with
the statement 'my cultural tradition is always the underdog' had
decreased exactly in line with the increase in the proportion of
Protestants who thought their tradition was the underdog. 70% of
Catholics were confident that their own cultural tradition is protected
in Northern Ireland these days, compared with only a third of Protestants.
I suggested that the declining Protestant confidence in their position
post Agreement was as worrying as it would be if the statistics
were reversed. Both traditions must see themselves as having a stake
in a shared future.
The improving situation on the streets had lulled many into a sense
of false security. Too little attention was paid to the massive
effort required to keep the lid on potentially explosive situations
during the marching season and to the paucity of evidence that underlying
animosities had diminished.
I believe that any realistic analysis of what happened in September
has to recognise that there are multiple factors at work here. Society
has always been to a large extent segregated in Northern Ireland
but the Troubles hugely accelerated the trend and we now have too
many single identity neighbourhoods characterised by cultural exclusiveness,
which have their own 'authority' figures in the shape of the paramilitaries.
The shift in the balance of power in Northern Ireland has bred within
loyalist neighbourhoods, but also beyond them, acute insecurity
and uncertainty and a fear (to which I have already referred) that
their cultural identify is under threat. Hence the sensitivity of
the Parades issue.
Alongside all this, many neighbourhoods share the characteristics
of inner city and soulless outer city areas the world over. Educational
attainment is generally low and economic inactivity rates are in
some areas nearly twice the Northern Ireland average. The traditional
instruments of social control (including attitudes towards the police)
are badly damaged.
We have to recognise the explosive potential of such a mixture.
Starting from the basis of realities, we now need a massive investment
in the generation of social capital - but not of the kind that bonds
like with like. We have enough of that, reinforcing exclusive identities
and homogeneous groups. What we need is the social capital that
bridges the cleavages and generates broader identities and sympathies.
It is not easy to create the social filaments in a society characterised
by so much segregation in housing, work, education and sport. To
do so will challenge all our creative energies. But the need for
policies to promote integration and cohesion - which is very different
from assimilation and loss of identity - is as imperative as in
Great Britain, where a Commission to consider such issues in the
aftermath of the July 2005 terrorist attack is being established.
As I recommended in my Parades Review Report, there may first of
all have to be more emphasis on work with single identity groups
as a staging post to intergroup work, particularly when one community
is experiencing the nihilism and fatalism which beset those in psychological
retreat. It has been well said that only when individuals are comfortable
with their own identity and have some empathy with the position
of others can contact provide a constructive medium through which
prejudice, intolerance and negative social sterotypes are addressed.
Such work of course needs to be conducted with care so that (as
I put it in the Report) people who are suspicious of or hostile
to others are not reinforced in that tendency, with the result that
cultural distinctiveness becomes even more key to self-esteem.
Civic society has a major role to play in pulling those on the
margins into the mainstream. Bombardier, the largest manufacturing
operation on the island and (together with its suppliers) making
up some 7% of Northern Ireland's manufacturing workforce and producing
12% of its exports, is determined to shoulder its responsibilities.
For example, we have been actively involved in the work of the Task
Forces which drew up comprehensive proposals for the regeneration
and development of the West Belfast and Greater Shankill areas and
we have been contributing vigorously to key aspects of their implementation.
I may say that we are very proud to be part of the Bombardier Group,
whose aerospace business ranks as the third largest commercial aircraft
company in the world and is No. 1 in the regional aircraft and business
aircraft markets. We are key contributors to virtually its entire
impressive range of aircraft.
So modest are the Canadians that it is not sufficiently known that
Canada has the third largest aerospace industry in the world after
the USA and Europe. Its 400 companies employ over 80,000 people
and have annual sales of 22bn dollars, 80% of them in export markets.
The Northern Ireland Peace Process proves once again that turnkey
solutions are a rarity and progress is never linear. The Good Friday
Agreement raised the bar high, requiring enforced fraternity at
the top whilst there was a serious lack of fraternity at the base.
Stability demands that, for the future, as much attention is devoted
to constructing the load-bearing beams as to erecting the superstructure.
May I thank you once again most warmly for inviting me and wish
you great success as you pursue your vision of a far better future.