Take any day of any month in any year and one anniversary or another in some part of the world will come to the fore. However, April is the one month during which not just major events come to my mind but personal ones also.
Of the four male members of our family three were born in that month. My elder brother Tom was born on the 13th, myself on the 26th and my younger brother John on the 27th.
Sadly I am the only one of the four (there was also George, born on some other day of another month) who is at the moment still alive – I am touching myself to make sure – plus two of my five sisters, one 93 years old, the other 96.
Turning to the other anniversaries in April one stands out to me, the 24th April, Easter Monday, the rebellion in Ireland from which many other events flowed. Three years and two days separated its occurrence from my birth on April 26th 1919.
Coming up in a few days , of course, is the anniversary of the Belfast Agreement (otherwise known as the ‘Good Friday Agreement 1998’) which effectively, hiccup by hiccup, stutter by stutter, set the seal on the peace between the two communities in Northern Ireland.
Eleven years ago Good Friday also fell on April 10th but about how often this coincidence might occur I’ve not got a clue.
On that occasion I wrote a this letter to the South Wales Argus – it was published on April 15th.
It has not been easy or plain sailing in the past eleven years. Implementation was somewhat erratic and it was amended during the Saint Andrews conference in respect of the method of electing the First and Deputy First Ministers. There was also a change from the parties in power during the early years of the Assembly – the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP – to the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin.
It has survived the arguments around the decommissioning of weapons by the Provisional IRA and, according to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, there are signs just recently as the time runs out that Loyalist paramilitaries are coming round to decommissioning theirs. It’s a bit late but better than never.
So what of the future? Despite the global financial and economic turmoil the First and Deputy First Minister have been to Washington together seeking some American investments into the Northern Ireland economy.
Is there a realisation, after the bloody years of strife, that the interests of all of the citizens, North and South, come before arguments over unification, that we are again in the territory when jobs, homes and education, as in the 1930s, were dominant issues
and the Relief Workers’ strike united members of both communities.
As I look back over 80 years of my 90 on my active involvement I recall that my elder brother Tom, who died seven years before the Good Friday Agreement, often proclaimed over a similar period of his life that living conditions, fairness, equal rights et cetera were issues on which both communities should unite to remedy rather than to be divided because of the political divide in respect of jurisdiction.
When one considers that the imperatives of the world economic difficulties demand that co‑operation between the leaders of the two Northern Ireland communities should not only continue but be reinforced, it becomes clear that, irrespective of jurisdiction, an all Ireland approach to the common problems can indeed be achieved by the same co‑operation.
The pressures of the exterior global issues can indeed forge a common purpose for all of us have the same limitations of life and should be able, applying rational thought and in a spirit of mutuality, to make an effort to share with clarity and parity what is realistically possible.
Which brings me up to speed to a new date on 2nd April in 2010 to see how far those same principles enunciated in the communique after the G20 Summit in London have progressed towards implementation.
The stark realisation that a deeper, more devastating depression than that of the 1930s will arise unless there is international co‑operative action to control the mindless competitive economic system and to include the interests and needs of the mass of humanity around the world by collectively inserting a social purpose as an alternative to that of private profit making.
So, whether we look back at the needs of Ireland, North or South, or generally in the wider world, the message should be heard: co‑operation is better than conflictual competition.