National Day of Commemoration, Dublin
Blog of Belfast’s Lord Mayor, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir
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I was honoured to represent Belfast at the National Day of Commemoration in Dublin today.

With representatives from across Ireland, it was an occasion which combined respect for the dead – “in honour of all those Irishmen and Irishwomen who died in past wars or on service with the United Nations” – with reconciliation among the living. 

And that spirit of peacemaking (among the guests were many unionist representatives including Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and Ian Adamson, former Lord Mayor of Belfast) extended far beyond this island. 

Particularly poignant were the contributions from the main faiths in Ireland. We had prayers from the Muslim and Jewish communities as well as from the Christian congregations. I was especially taken by the Prayer of Intercession from the Rev Heather Morris, head of the Methodist Church in Ireland, which included this sentiment: “Grant us your grace, strength and courage that we might build peace in this generation.” 

And those traits are surely needed as we deal with the aftermath of a testing Twelfth.  It’s my hope that the second night of violence in North Belfast will be the last and that those Orange Order members opposed to the rulings of the Parades Commission will avoid actions which increase tension and exacerbate division. 

Over the Twelfth, we had around 550 parades. Only two were marred by violence. 

And I believe that with dialogue, we can reduce that figure to zero.

For those who doubt that fact, I would urge them to see the glass half-full. A decade ago, Derry was wrecked with violence on the Twelfth. This year the city hosted one of the biggest and most successful Orange parades. The starting point in that transformation was, of course, dialogue. 

Despite this week’s setback in Belfast, people of goodwill should ensure that dialogue between the Loyal Orders and residents groups continues. 

If that’s a bold ambition, it’s one shared by the Rev Rob Craig, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, who used these words at the Kilmainham gathering: “Are we bold enough Lord, to ask for your healing, for these people, for this nation, for all nations, for our world today.” 

All my attention wasn’t only on the home front this week though. On Tuesday, I made a 24-hour trip to Milan, to pick up a major award to mark Belfast’s hosting of the Giro d’Italia next May and to meet the city’s esteemed Mayor Giuliano Pisapia. You can read more about that visit here

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Irish President Michael D Higgins reviews the Guard today at the National Day of Commemoration,, Dublin.

Photo: Irish President Michael D Higgins reviews the Guard today at the National Day of Commemoration,, Dublin.

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