Eamonn Mallie starts his piece by “imagining”. As an artist, I do that too, “imagine”. What would things in the Northern Ireland current political landscape look like if they were different? What if alternative words and actions were used to bring another narrative? If we could stop the frame, as if in Forum Theatre, experiment with a different “take”, and another, and another (take 3…) until we found the “take” that feels just right. The one that holds dignity and grace beside courage and strength, that takes responsibility for the wrongs that we’ve all done. It envisages a farther shore beyond a predictable past that we should have learnt from rather than repeat in a different format.
What if the intention of the narrative was to go easy on ourselves and each other, because sure, have we not gone through enough? I feel as ashamed now as I did growing up with a backdrop of violence yet I still believe, believe in the farther shore.
Eammon quotes The Cure of Troy, by Seamus Heaney which I’ve been thinking about for a long time, since 1998 to be exact, when I was allowed to use these words following the Omagh bomb, in days when we realised that that kind of pain was no longer acceptable.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
The lines from the poem float in my head, continuing to create images and even more so, over these past few days as I’ve listened to voices in authority from all sides, hurling insults and blame like frenzied fistfuls of messy mud. One thing I learnt from working alongside those who have been hurt in the past, is that the deep, dark root of that level of pain, began at some point with harsh words. It doesn't have to be that way. There is a far side to revenge beyond the troughs of murk.
I feared that this beautiful verse had become a cliche until Mr Mallie used it in his piece. Then it dawned on me, that if that was the case, its familiarity would influence our actions and integrate our behaviour, enacting them as another “take”, even just to see what they felt like. This is the script. Imagine if these words set the scene or the agenda for today and tomorrows final talks to try to resolve the complex issues on the table? What if this kind of reconciliation was acted out in the chamber and applied to intentional grit to find resolution instead of another election? I may be a dreamer but let me imagine that…