Throughout our history there have been voices of reason promoting a more constructive shape to our relationships whether it be in Northern Ireland, on this island or across these islands. They have been, and will continue to be, an important counter to those promoting hatred and division.
Inspired by a letter included in a book titled “Conscience in Revolt”, made up of sixty-four stories of resistance in Germany 1933-45, which was brought to my attention by Baroness Onora O’Neill, it was my intention to ask some of those voices to provide their words of advice for our young people on how they should take small steps to help shape future relationships in a better way.
One of the first people that I was going to approach to contribute was the late Maurice Hayes who unfortunately passed away recently. I have no doubt he would have been prepared to provide a meaningful and thoughtful perspective of the future for the people of this island which was inclusive, peaceful and successful – both socially and economically.
Maurice had a long, varied and distinguished career. He was Clerk to Down Council having been educated at Queen’s University Belfast. The first Catholic Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and a Permanent Secretary for Health, as well as a Senator in the Irish Senate, he used his positions and influence for the benefit of all the people.
A fluent Irish speaker, he was also manager of the successful Down All-Ireland winning sides of 1960 and 1961. His social conscience was in evidence throughout his life whether with the Community Foundation, the Ireland Funds or the many other organisations he interacted with as well as being a loving husband and father. He had a great sense of fairness and was always prepared to look at all sides of an issue and, as such, was a strong moral compass that will be sadly missed.
The following excerpt from Romans 12:2-21 was read out at his funeral service and I think would probably be a reasonable summary of the advice he would have set out for all faiths and none:
“Live in harmony with one another. Don’t be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Don’t be conceited. Do not reply anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the sight of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends…”
Maurice appreciated the true character of our people and the beautiful place we share and as we stepped across from the service at St Patrick’s to where he was buried at Down Cathedral it symbolised an embracing of and relaxed attitude towards our diversity that points to a different and better way to do relationships.
By Trevor Ringland