One of Ireland’s best known historians, Tim Pat Coogan, praised the community spirit of Derry people when he spoke at a Féile event in Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin.
Several hundred people attended the lecture which was entitled, ‘Ireland - Yes we can?’
The event was chaired by Dr Ann McCloskey, who described Mr Coogan as “one of the most important and famous political commentators in Ireland.”
In his talk, Mr Coogan addressed the current economic crisis on the island of Ireland and its impact on political life.
He told the large crowd that many facets of Irish life are changing and people need to go back to their communities and rebuild society from there.
“Modern Ireland can be seen as the out working of two forms of colonisation; by mother England and mother Church.
“That complexity has been added to by the welcome given to the Queen of England and when the Vatican were told to ‘f’ off in a matter of weeks,” he said.
The author and historian said that community movements have driven changes in Derry and those changes have shaped modern Ireland. “The word which will govern what we succeed in is a word which epitomises Derry - that word is community. It is the ability to hold what you have and try for what you want.
“Even in the midst of everything that is happening today, that spirit can still be seen looking around Derry today,” he said.
Mr Coogan said education has played a major role in the development of nationalist Ireland and hailed the role played by Derry. “The significant catalyst for change in modern Ireland, particularly in the Six County area, occurred in Derry in the 1960s when an unheard of thing happened; a motorcade of over thousand people drove to Stormont in opposition to the proposal to develop the third level education facility at Coleraine instead of extending Magee.
“When you look at the figures for Catholics or nationalists attending universities now it is clear that the change has been colossal. Nationalists are in the majority and the powers that be can’t fiddle the figures forever. Education is the bed of the future,” he said.
The former Irish Press editor also said he believes a united Ireland will be achieved within 40 years. “It is a question that will confront us. 40 years ago we had the introduction of internment. In far less than 40 years we will have a united Ireland,” he said.
Mr Coogan also told the audience that he would like to see a truth commission established in Ireland. “It would greatly help if people came out and said frankly what they did in some kind of truth and reconciliation forum. It would bring a new sense of closure but of course it would have to be done with immunity,” he explained.
He also joked that he must be the only man in Ireland not running for the Presidency and questioned whether the country can afford a president. “It’s a huge amount of money when all things are considered and it would make a mighty statement about the economy if we abolished it, perhaps on a voluntary basis,” he said.