This post is from 2 years ago on St. Patrick’s Day, but worth another run. The commentary addresses the March 2009 killing of two British Royal Air Force soldiers and concern about the return of violence to the long history of difficulty. Matthews’ description of the social segregation of the people of Northern Ireland is instructive.
Like him or not, it’s worth watching Chris Matthews’ commentary on Ireland tonight.
“The headlines [of the killings] from Northern Ireland were just like the bad old days. The story we’re getting is far different… So, you see, a lot has changed because of the Good Friday agreement in 1998. Northern Ireland has a shared government of Loyalist and Republican, Protestant and Catholic. The Northern Ireland police force is increasingly integrated – Catholic as well as Protestant. And the people of Northern Ireland are united in wanting peace and no return to the days and nights of locked doors and killing in the night. No return.
If you want progress in the north, there are real ways to go about it. Tell every relative you’ve got over there that we are united in wanting peace, better yet that you respect any effort to bring reconciliation between the two sides. Right now 95% of the kids from Northern Ireland go to separate schools. Almost two thirds have never had a conversation across the religious line, Catholic and Protestant. But those who do go to school together are inclined to describe themselves not as British or Irish but Northern Irish, a term that unites rather than divides, that breeds hope, for a future Ireland where the whole Isle can live in peace and – yes – for all practical purposes, in unity… without the watch towers and the constantina wire, the check points, the 40 foot high walls that still separate Catholic from Protestant…
I just hope and pray that this peace holds and grows to something better, especially in these very tough economic times. I have my heart in this fight, obviously. My grandmom and grandpa Shields were Irish Catholic to the core… My dad’s mom was a Presbyterian with a brogue to match Mrs. Doubtfire. As a grandson to both, my brothers and I know from birth that peace is possible, even love.“