Republican News · Thursday 24 August 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Fr Des urges careful progress


The Creggan Festival, Féile an Chreagain, this year hosted its second annual Óglach Ethel Lynch Memorial Lecture. The lecture this year complemented the theme of the Féile; People-Nature-Technology. It asked whether we, as a people, can find ``balance'' between these three areas in the year 2000, or whether this was even possible.

This year's lecture was delivered by Father Des Wilson, the radical priest based in West Belfast. Who better than Father Des to speak on such a far-reaching and thought provoking subject, to make us think, ponder, wonder and hope. The audience listened intently as Fr. Des explained the importance of just where we are at this moment in time. He explained how decisions we make today can affect the people, nature and technology of the future.

Fr Des said he believed we are ``on the way to a peaceful Ireland'', an accomplishment created by all those like Ethel Lynch - men and women who sacrificed, who had a pride in themselves and their people, who not only thought about the present, but gave much thought to the future. Such was Ethel's gift to us all, he said.

After the lecture, a plaque was presented to Fr Des on behalf of the festival by Philomena McLaughlin, Ethel Lynch's sister. This was followed by a remembrance gift from the Festival, awarded by Councillor Mary Nelis to the family of Ethel Lynch who were in attendance bar Ethel's mother, who was ill and unable to attend this year.

The lecture was less a delivered text than a talk designed to elicit thought and ideas from audience members, which was an easy task given the speaker. Des's main focus was to caution that we as a people do not lose control of our land and ourselves as we enter into the task of creating the new Ireland we have struggled for.

He pointed out the mass pollution found in Belfast and other places because of development and industry through technology without regard to nature or people. He warned of monitoring such development in other cities, such as historic Derry, steeped in history and culture, with its many special areas that should be protected.

The subject of the need for jobs vs. ``at what cost'' was discussed as well. This has special meaning to many in Derry with Raytheon's recent shrouded arriva. Although there is a great need for jobs in the community, it is up to the community itself to decide at what cost, said Des. Jobs, just for the sake of having them, are not, nor should they be, the answer. All decisions relating to the development of our cities and our country must remain with the people who live in those communities. For they must live with what those decisions bring with them.

The audience listened intently to Fr Des as he took us through history and reminded us of the many mistakes made by not exercising caution when allowing growth in our cities. Quite often, he said, people are focused on the immediate return of benefits and far too often not enough thought goes into planning or protecting the environment and all those important things that make this land so special and beautiful.

The audience left with a feeling of empowerment, of vision, and even of fear. The message was clear: we can only go forward very carefully, united with the thought that we must build a country and a way of life that is, as Fr. Des so eloquently stated, ``not life threatening, but life enhancing''.

If we can do that then we are well on our way to ensuring our new Ireland is one where there is a balance between people, nature and technology.

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