SDLP leader Colum Eastwood refused to draw direct anachronistic parallels between Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell and John Hume during a special commemoration in Glasnevin cemetery at the weekend but nevertheless insisted the former leaders of constitutional nationalism all shared a commitment to the non-violent delivery of progress.
Mr. Eastwood, was delivering the annual ‘Ivy Day’ oration at the graveside of Parnell ahead of the anniversary of his death on Friday.
The SDLP leader said it would be tempting to claim the Home Ruler’s legacy for his party but acknowledged history doesn’t follow such neat patterns.
“I am always conscious that Irish political parties and politicians have a habit of being greedy with historical lineage - often jealously entombing the memory and legacies of individuals to suit the politics of the present,” said Mr. Eastwood.
“As the leader of the SDLP it would be easy to draw a neat line from the great emancipator O’Connell, to the great parliamentarian Parnell and ending with the great peacemaker Hume.
“But history doesn’t follow straight lines and family trees aren’t that easily drawn,” he added.
Notwithstanding these acknowledgements, Mr. Eastwood said he recognised common features between O’Connell, Parnell and Hume’s philosophies.
“However, as we today remember Charles Stewart Parnell and his achievements there is one historical thread which maintains its logic and integrity,” he continued.
“Whether commemorating the movements for Home Rule, the Land Acts, 1918 election, the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement or the 50th anniversary of Civil Rights - the lesson of history shows that great change isn’t always cultivated by killing and death.
“The figure of Parnell offers a constant reminder that it is politics rather than violence which manifests the ultimate change,” said Mr. Eastwood.
The Derry man said Parnell’s legacy was a ‘powerful inheritance to hold’ in such uncertain times.
“It is ultimately the craft and creativity of politics rather than the crude and momentary use of violence, which eventually comes to shape the curve of history.
“In an uncertain world, struggling to retain faith in the transformative power of politics, the memory of Parnell constantly gifts us with the knowledge that politics is capable of achieving great change,” said the current SDLP leader.