TOO much public discourse today is based on the appeal to identity and to emotion rather than on proper dispassionate discussion on public issues, which is an essential for a functioning democracy, the Irish Primate, Dr Richard Clarke, told a meeting of the British-Irish Association (BIA) in Oxford on Saturday.
Emphasising the need for a better quality of public discourse across society, and the need to “reject any notion that truth can be treated as disposable”, he warned of a loss of empathy as a basic and vital human quality. He suggested that the foundations of democracy were under threat today in Western Europe in a way that has previously been unthinkable since the end of the Second World War.
Dr Clarke also touched on his belief that “legacy” issues in Northern Ireland still need to be prioritised — not least because so much of the public discourse in Northern Ireland continually returns to these issues.
With regard to victims and survivors of “the Troubles”, Dr Clarke said that the term “legacy” in itself “can sound too abstract when in fact the issues relate to real, not abstract, situations”; people still needed a great deal of public support (and not always financial).