The archbishop believes there must be hope and optimism as people stand at the start of a new year.
“There are some signs of hope in relation to getting ahead of coronavirus with the widespread application of vaccines, but probably there is also ‘a slough of despond’ to wade through first,” he said.
“We will begin to see for real what the effects of Brexit will be on ordinary life on these islands, and for relationships within and between them. On top of that, we have the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Northern Ireland to look forward to, which, no doubt, will be marked/celebrated/analysed/ignored/vituperated, depending on one’s perspective.
“There are a few groups of people who might be uppermost in the minds of politicians and policy-makers, as they plot a way forward on behalf of us all towards a compassionate society that is a bit more than simply fair.”
The archbishop added: “There are the groups of relative newcomers to this island, who now live here as citizens, asylum seekers and migrants. During this pandemic they have contributed considerably to our well-being as doctors, nurses, care staff, and delivery drivers.
“If they are an expression of the breadth and depth of our societies, then they should also become a source of that breadth and depth. They have much to teach us as we pare back the onion layers of prejudice and indifference, as we must do if we are to live in a society that has an emotionally rich core.
“There are also those, best symbolised by residents in care homes but not restricted to them, whose needs have never been too far up the policy agenda and not just during the pandemic. This includes, of course, the elderly. Most of us are going to be old some day and it is in the interests of the whole of society for us all to be able to approach that state of being without paralysing anxieties which then flow through to our families.
“Here in Northern Ireland, it was only when I was able to talk about it to my mother, who was born into hardship in the 1920s, that I was able to get some idea of what the term ‘National Health Service’ meant to her generation. Not having to worry about what to do or where to go when you are sick.”
The effect of the NHS on the mental health and morale of a whole of society was incalculable because it was without limit, said Primate McDowell.
“That system of healthcare was devised during a world war, and implemented in its aftermath, in the middle of another shed load of debt. So we know that it can be done – if it is a priority.
“There is also pre–eminently the simple human priority to ensure that no child lives in poverty. Why would any democratic government not have that as a centrepiece of its social priorities? Why would any civilised society not consider making the necessary sacrifices?
“Thinking about the helplessness and dependence of children is not just for Christmas.”
— to www.newsletter.co.uk