The comments made by Irish President Michael D Higgins on the plight of people who were adopted trying to trace their biological parents seems to perfectly describe many aspects of Irish society.
The President called on the state to take responsibility for its actions and said that talk of forgiveness has been “all too easily trotted out” in recent years.
He made the remarks with specific reference to adoption but they could also easily apply to many great problems faced by those struggling to deal with the injustices of the past, including survivors and victims of institutional abuse and relatives of those killed during the conflict.
To deal with this and other problems, the President argues, a new sense of ethics has to introduced into Irish society to restore confidence in the state and its institutions.
To this end he has commissioned a host of experts, including philosophers, to draw up a framework of national ethics.
The need for such a process to address the past, taking in the complexities of modern life right across the island, is apparent.
While this initiative is entirely laudable, it is easier said than done. Much easier.
Unless it is grounded in reality and has a practical application which will improve the loves of ordinary people it could remain just a set of lofty, albeit well-meaning, ideals.
In this part of the world we know only too well the consequences - or more appropriately, the lack thereof, of a multitude of reports, visions, workshops and seminars designed to tackle major social issues.
Or course, any such process needs to start with a conversation, but it needs to move far beyond that in order to achieve its noble aims of helping to create a new sense of national identity.