Kielty, from Co. Down, was just 16-years-old when his father Jack was murdered by the UDA back at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Speaking last December at the Irish government’s Shared Island initiative in Dublin, the 51-year-old gave an impassioned speech about the potential of a United Ireland and how people living in the Republic need to pay more attention to matters in the North.
“In this year of centenaries, the ghosts of the past are easy to honour. It’s way easier to sing a rebel song about a United Ireland than not sing it order to maybe have one. And yet we have to be honest with one another about who we are, how we feel and why we feel it,” he began.
“It’s not just trauma that gets passed down, this isn’t just a ‘northern thing’. Across this entire island, not talking and not engaging means that other things get passed down too.”
“One-sided history, stereotypes and maybe the worst of all, apathy. It’s easy in a post-Brexit world to sit in Dublin and say ‘the British government doesn’t care about the north when the truth is for many people in the Republic, they aren’t particularly interested in it either.”
“Unless a northern team pulls a hard Brexit with Sam Maguire. I know it can be a tricky place to get your head around. Somewhere that’s home to orange men and All-Ireland winners, but it’s way harder to understand when you’re not curious,” he continued.
He added that people in the north still face trauma as a result of the troubles.
“In a post-Good Friday Agreement, a big mistake that I have already made is trying to put a lid on the past and hand the new generation this shiny new page, without really talking to them or each other about the chapter before.”
“We all pass down our opinions, our preconceptions and misconceptions. Usually without first questioning them ourselves.”
Sometimes we need to talk to people who don’t fold our own opinions back on us,” he continued.
“The vast majority of people in the north no longer look at things through a binary prism, they’re getting on with their lives and each other. Say this quietly, but the shared island we’re talking about is already happening today, just up the road.”
“Is it a love-in? No. Is it united? Definitely not. But you know too often on this island we get fixated by the notion of being united. Remaining part of the United Kingdom. Becoming part of a United Ireland. But being a fan of the red side of Manchester these days, can I say that being united isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” he said.
“This island is never going to be united and that’s okay because no matter if, and it’s a big if, if a border poll takes place and more importantly no matter how it turns out, most people living here will feel exactly the same about who they are and what they believe in.”
“There’s still going to be a million or so on this island who are British. They don’t just think they’re British, they don’t need converting, they’re not confused, they’re British,” he explained.
“The same way that a million or so people living north of the border today know that they’re Irish.”
“A shared island means being able to be Irish in a future Northern Ireland or be British in a future Ireland and not holding no fear. It means we can all feel as at home on the day of a border poll as the day before the result.”
Sharing the speech on social media, one person wrote: “This is really excellent and well worth a listen given the week we’ve had.”
“As emergency services from Northern Ireland came to help the victims and the people of Creeslough. As many of us were so proud of the Irish team’s achievement in Glasgow, and at odds over a song,” they added.
Another shared: “Ten minutes of Patrick that are well worth an investment of your time…”
However, not everybody shared the same sentiments.
“Are we now blaming the women’s football team for preventing Irish reunification? Because that seems a bit excessive,” one person wrote.
“I literally do not want a united Ireland if it comes with suppressing our culture and music so no thanks,” another said.
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