Letter: A new spirit in Ireland

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The Independent Online
Sir: I read the very moving piece written by Dick Spring on the recent IRA bombings and the tragic deaths of the children Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry ('I believe there is a new spirit in Ireland . . . The real Ireland is walking behind the coffins of your sons', 26 March). Mr Spring reminds us how 'Gordon Wilson, now a member of the Irish Senate, watched his daughter die in the rubble of the Remembrance Day massacre at Enniskillen', and writes further that there is 'a new spirit in Ireland . . . ripening towards expression in new political arrangements', and that Ireland has learnt 'the hard way that peace and stability will not be found in any political system which is rejected on grounds of ethos or identity by a significant minority of the people governed by it'.

This has been the continuing tragedy since the death of Michael Collins, eight months after negotiating the Free State treaty in December 1921 between what was to become the Republic of Ireland and Britain. The present problems originate from his unrealised plans for the unity of Ireland by consent, to which he hoped that the treaty would eventually lead.

The problem then was that a strong minority wanted both the North and South to form the Republic and would accept no compromise. Collins believed that by meeting the hard-core opposition on all sides, for as much discussion as it took, he could resolve the difference between conflicting ideologies. He lost his life as a consequence, although it is still not clear who or what organisation was responsible for his death.

Michael Collins was a remarkable man, and Gordon Wilson seems to be of the same type; someone who is seeking to effect constructive progress by reaching out to communicate with everyone, perpetrators and victims on all sides involved in this terrible conflict, regardless - or perhaps because of - his own suffering and loss. This is the spirit of Ireland that Collins embodied and hoped to reach in others in 1922. Had men like Gordon Wilson prevailed in that time, the troubles between Ireland and Britain that followed might never have come to pass.

Yours sincerely,

PATRICIA MOYNIHAN

Twyford, Hampshire

26 March

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