We should celebrate our walls - Ramsey

SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey.  (1005JB04)
SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey. (1005JB04)

On Monday, Gregory Campbell brought a motion before the Assembly recognising the legacy of the last 400 years, including the commencement of the construction of the Derry Walls, and the impact of 2013 for tourism and employment opportunities.

I welcomed the debate, it is about time that we discussed our local heritage, and that we openly relay our views on City of Culture.

To paraphrase, I thought it would be remiss of me not to tell the Assembly of the historic Gaelic clans of the North West and Limavady such as the O’Doherty’s and the O’Cahan’s. Our history didn’t just begin 400 years ago, and that should never be forgotten.

The history of this island is extensive, ancient and has left us with a legacy that we at times find difficult to come to terms with. The walls are part of that legacy.

They were built following the sack of Derry in 1608 carried out by Cahir O’Doherty, to protect this strategic area. The Plantation and the Flight of the Earls, seismic events in Irish history left their social and infrastructural marks on this island. While the Walls were built to exclude, we can now utilise them as an inclusive instrument for all in this City and region.

That is what we must do, and why I have requested the Executive prioritise our Walls as a World Heritage Site.

We should celebrate the walls and embrace them, they are our local symbol of our importance on these islands.

It is easy to look at the walls as an ideological bastion, but if we take ownership of them in all of our communities, they can become a beacon of our collective will to live alongside one another, to make a determine effort to promote inclusivity, and above all, to accept what was the past.

On City of Culture, where our history can be used to build bridges, we think about what is next – what for 2014 and beyond?

If the only beneficiaries to the windfall for the City are those in senior positions within organisations benefitting from or managing events for the Culture Company, then we run the risk of leaving no substantive legacy for our young people.

The A5 was always going to be a game-changer in terms of infrastructure, and Ebrington has set the standard for public realm projects – but we also need to be prioritising social gains – jobs, confidence and above all, pride in our City.

Tangible gains in our economic profile as was lauded in our Culture bid, must be realised, and the seeds of a legacy for young people involved in creative arts demands attention. Soon we will be half way through 2013, and the upcoming 6 months should focus on Derry after 2013.

Those in organisations benefitting from 2013 leaving Derry having been paid well for their toil as a major output from our year, will represent disappointment amongst primarily our young people, to whom we owe the future.

We should strive to ensure that our collective future, in contrast to our past, is bright, and that we deliver a legacy fit for our children.