The 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement made it possible to celebrate the achievement and the people who delivered it. It was an opportunity to reflect on the horror we left behind, twenty-five years ago and why it is worth continuing the effort.
In the 12th annual Thomas D’Arcy McGee Summer School we want to focus on the future to look at the issues which will fundamentally shape the next twenty-five years of the GFA across this shared island. In his day, D’Arcy McGee provided leadership, not by dwelling on past/ongoing divisions but by working with former enemies to build a new world, embracing new challenges together.
Over and above the old political divisions, society and its leaders, north and south, will be forced to find common ground in addressing changes which will inevitably affect us all. Climate change, a new world economic disorder globalised and fractured, migration, disruptive technology, and artificial intelligence.
Founded in 2010, the annual Thomas D’Arcy McGee Summer School reflects on the life, vision and legacy of an Irish Rebel and Canadian patriot. As a Young Irelander McGee was eloquent in his condemnation of the misery caused by the famine and in his condemnation of British policy and the suffering of cottiers, labourers and small tenant farmers. It was McGee who coined the phrase ‘sailing coffins’ – coffin ships. As a Canadian patriot McGee rejected the physical force republicanism of his youth and the bitter ethnic competition he witnessed in New York and Boston. He settled in Montreal where he championed the Catholic Irish immigrants whilst promoting a Canadian nationality that would embrace the Irish, the French and the Orange; and unite the provinces from the Atlantic to the Pacific. His vision of ‘unity in diversity’ laid the foundations for a prosperous, progressive tolerant Canada. His statue stands outside the Canadian Parliament. As the young, insecure, Irish Free State struggled to find an identity free from its historical entanglement with Britain, McGee was almost forgotten, but with the Good Friday Agreement, his willingness to compromise, engage with and work with opponents is recognised as the way forward.
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