Speech at a Reception for the Tipperary Peace Committee
Áras an Uachtaráin, Wednesday 30th October 2019
Is cúis áthais dom agus do Sabina fáilte a chuir roimh go léir ag Aras an Uachtarán. Blianta ó shin, ag tús na n-ochtóidí, thug mé cuairt ar Thiobraid Árainn chun bualadh le Coiste Síochána Thiobraid Árainn ag tús a gcuid oibre, obair a raibh chun tionchar dearfach a bheith aige ar chothú na síochána ar an oileán seo agus thar lear.
[Sabina and I are very happy to welcome you all here today to Áras an Uachtaráin. Many years ago, in the early 1980s, I visited Tipperary in order to meet with the Tipperary Peace Committee, then just at the beginning of their journey, a journey which would have such a positive impact on the promotion of peace on this island and beyond.]
May I commence, therefore, by extending a special welcome to those founding members – Noel McInerney, Joe Quinn, Tim Ryan, and Maureen Walsh and to Hannah Ryan who is representing her husband, the late Danny Ryan. I am delighted you have all been able to join us here today.
Fearaim fíorchaoin fáilte romhaibh.
I have followed the work of the Tipperary Peace Committee with great interest since those early years, watching you turn a generous idea into a lived reality. Across the thirty-five years since its inception, a diverse and distinguished roll call of renowned peace-builders have travelled from across the globe to Tipperary to receive the prestigious Tipperary Peace Award.
The Tipperary Peace Forum was established at a time of great political turbulence and violence on this island, born out of prejudice, misunderstanding and bitter intolerance. It was a time when peace on the island of Ireland seemed a very distant concept. Indeed, in the year of your formation, 85 people lost their lives as a result of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Setting up the Tipperary Peace Forum and Award was, therefore, an act of great hope and moral courage during very difficult times.
Peace did, of course, eventually come. However, it did not arrive easily or overnight. It was carefully and slowly constructed, across many years, by many groups and individuals – including several recipients of the Tipperary Peace Award – and through much determined effort, perseverance, trust, compromise, along with respect for divergent and shared aspirations and interests, and commitment to the creation of a more just and equal society.
Is de réir a chéile a thógtar an tsíocháin, agus caithfear í a chothú.
It is, we know, a peace that remains fragile and complex, requiring sustained, collective and ongoing effort if it is to be maintained.
The Good Friday Agreement is a work in progress, one currently facing great challenges, which remind us that we must all work to cherish, promote and support the building of peace and understanding in our communities, our societies and in a wider global context.
Today, across the globe, the number of people in crisis and displacement is at the highest in recorded times. Violent conflicts today are likely to have more actors, exhibit more complexity and last longer than ever before. In 2017, over 30 million people, the equivalent of 80,000 people per day, were forced to leave their homes as they fled from violence, conflict and disaster. Yet today, just ten percent of development assistance is spent on peacebuilding, while military expenditure continues to rise.
If we are to truly strive to build a culture of peace, it is essential that the fruits of new science and technology are turned to the promotion and preservation of peace, and not to a renewed pursuit and prosecution of war. As we wrestle with interlinked challenges in science, climate, economy and society, we must do more to support and invest in the interlinked solutions of peace, justice, human rights and development, and we must strive to build a culture of peace.
The aim of the Tipperary Peace Committee was to build, in part, from an anthem of war, such a culture and legacy, by recognising those who work tirelessly in countries around the world to facilitate reconciliation and to end conflict and war.
Your formation was rooted in a concern that the word ‘Tipperary’ had become internationally associated with war, due to the enormous popularity of Harry Williams’s and Jack Judge’s music hall song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”, and from that concern has grown a convention that has done much admirable work in promoting and celebrating peace, one that is rightly held in high regard both at home here in Ireland and at international level.
“It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” is, of course, synonymous with World War I, that cataclysmic period of world history when so many lost their lives on the battlefields and in the trenches. However, the song is not a rallying cry or a glorification of conflict and war. It is, rather, a song that evokes the sorrow of those far away from the country of their birth, and longing for the shelter and security of the place they call home.
Is amhrán uaigneach é, chun an fhírinne a rá.
For many victims of today’s conflicts, the great injustice of being deprived of those most basic of human needs – shelter, security and a sense of belonging – is a lived and daily reality. Those who arrive on foreign shores fleeing war and persecution, those whose home and land are illegally taken from them, or those who live under the constant threat and fear of persecution or discrimination, are those rendered voiceless, powerless, their lives ruptured, their autonomy confiscated.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has affirmed that “recognition of the inherent dignity, and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
“Saolaítear gach duine den chine daonna saor agus comhionann i ndínit agus i gcearta”
If we are to construct such a world, a world where all our fellow citizens can live in peace, security, safety, respect and dignity, we must not only reject all forms of violence, but envision such a world – one that can be shared equally by all citizens, in all their wonderful diversity.
Those who work in non-violent ways to end conflict – through dialogue, negotiation, peaceful protests and demonstrations – demonstrate the great power of positive action to effect real and lasting change. We owe an enduring debt of gratitude to those who work to resolve conflict and difference with compassion and wisdom. We have, indeed, witnessed here in our own country, all that can be achieved by a willingness to engage in discourse and work towards achieving a common goal.
All those who have received the Tipperary Peace Award, an eminent group that ranges from aid workers to Senators and Prime Ministers, from humanitarians to missionaries, and includes those who have devoted many years to the creation of more just societies, to a new generation of visionary and brave peacebuilders, are those from whom we can take inspiration. By rejecting anger and violence and seeking alternative routes towards the resolution of conflict, their contributions towards the creation of a better world are immeasurable.
I am also so grateful to groups such as the Tipperary Peace Convention which highlight and honour those whose sense of shared humanity and quiet, determined and vital work impacts so positively on communities and societies around the world.
As you look back on the past 35 years, you have much to remember with pride. The establishment of the Forum, the Song of Peace competition, and the esteem in which the Tipperary Peace Award are held are testimony to your vision, hard work and also of course your special recognition of the transformative power of the arts, and the vital role they can play in creating trust, encouraging empathy, raising awareness and inspiring tolerance around difference.
Tréaslaím libh. Tá moladh tuillte agaibh as an bhfís atá agaibh, an obair crua agus an t-aitheantas a thugann sibh do ról na nEalaíona.
May I conclude by thanking all of you here today for all you have done in the cause of building a better and more peaceful world. I commend the founders of the Tipperary Peace Forum, all those who have served on the Committee across the years, and all those who have assisted and supported the Committee and the Tipperary Peace Award.
Is údar áthais agus gliondar dom go bhfuil an méid seo agaibh linn ag Áras an Uachtaráin inniu, agus guím gach rath oraibh agus sibh ag leanúint le bhur gcuid oibre thábhachtaigh.
[I am delighted so many of you have been able to visit Áras an Uachtaráin today, and I wish you every success as you continue with your important work.]
Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.