Why can't we just do the right thing?

Senator George Mitchell was in Belfast last week to speak at a conference on ending sectarianism and to receive an honorary award from the Co3 organisation in recognition of the leadership role he has played in peace-building in the north
Roseann Kelly

I HAD the privilege last week of attending the Co3 honorary award dinner for Senator George J. Mitchell, a fantastic evening honouring a man who outstandingly contributed to the peace we all enjoy today.

At the event we heard from two huge influencers of the time, the amazing Baroness May Blood and Dawn Purvis, two voices that were important and valuable then; and still are now, along with the many voices of women for peace. They extolled the virtues of Senator Mitchell, in particular his renowned listening skills.

Senator Mitchell, in his ever-humble way, paid equal tribute back to them. All got huge applause, he got a standing ovation . . . and yet we are where we are!

Why, when we all know the right thing to do, do we end up in such a horrible position? At the time of writing this, Theresa May and Karen Brady are being asked to resign and two female leaders in Northern Ireland have the opportunity to restore a government, restore leadership and restore a future to Northern Ireland. Yet the odds-on success are long. Why do we not do the right thing?

I have very often been called a dreamer, naive when I speak about what we could do and what we should do. The use of the phrase “too hard to do” when it comes to reform is offensive. We should do the right thing today so that in the long term we all benefit.

Short term views that just want to hold on to power, just want to hold on to the “now”, are those of non-progressive people.

We need to refocus on the future, we need to look at the long-term view, it's the RIGHT THING TO DO.

Ambition and investment for the future within business is crucial, is understood, is expected, and is essential.

I recently spoke to a large progressive company about diversity and they were very clear that businesses need to understand that you must endure short term pain for longer term gain.

I would ask all people in across these islands to stop and think and to 'do the right thing', because each and every one of us can make a difference.

I will leave you with the inspiration that is the tribute poem by Colin Dardis receipted to Senator George J. Mitchell…

For listening to all that were gathered,

certain that every voice we have mattered.

For walking the line between North and South,

a land big enough to hold every truth.

For seeing where past and present conjoin,

that we are all the sides of the same coin.

For displaying patience when we had none,

believing in words, instead of the gun,

we thank you.

For your wisdom when we were quick to blame

the other side and add fuel to the flame.

For friendship offered when met with tempers,

a smile tapering fires down to embers.

For telling us a simple principle:

once dreams spark, they're inextinguishable.

For persistent light when times were darkest,

courage far away, a breakthrough farthest,

we thank you.

For looking forward when others looked back

and doubted themselves, ready to retract.

For staying here, knowing hope could outweigh

the hard moments when life calls you away.

For understanding that true unity

is not us or them, but everybody.

For being the one who took up the pen

and drew ‘peace' across every town and glen,

we thank you.

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