The concept of the ‘Common Good’ has been written about for over 2000 years, from Aristotle and Cicero. Social Justice Ireland roots its understanding of the concept of ‘Common Good’ in “the fact that the person develops their potential in the context of society where the needs and rights of all members and groups are respected”. As demographics and socio-political landscapes on the island of Ireland are changing, are we leaving some people behind?
On Saturday June 22nd, we delivered an event that explored some key themes around the ‘Common Good’, to draw out the issues and concerns of people across the island of Ireland and to generate what we hoped would be a helpful public discussion on how we might face the uncertainty of the future together with a sense of hope and a commitment to living well together as neighbours and/or country men and women.
In the morning we had two panel discussions, the first with a Northern Ireland focus and the second with an all Ireland focus followed by Q & A. In the afternoon we held a World Café Dialogue session. The following is Eamon Rafter’s brief summary of the main points that arose from the table conversations:
Compilation of Key Insights
What is important about the concept of the Common Good and why do you care?
Common Good means and implies different things. Not a new concept
Is it about social good?
Danger that compromises involved might reduce it to low level of good
It’s the ‘good’ we hold in common.
What do we hold in common?
Everyone contributes and can benefit
Requires a common language and needs to also be bottom up
It involves civic governance and common aspects of culture and should be non-sectarian
We have a personal obligation to engage with common good.
Women have found common ground. They need a voice and need to be heard
Let’s talk about shared/common purpose rather than a shared/agreed/united Ireland
If we view it as an island community, it’s a better way of moving forward
We need to be clear about our deep values
It requires empathy
It involves challenging inequality, public services & access to health care
A set of conditions that allows everyone to thrive
If there’s a common good there must also be a common bad.
This could be a starting point to move forward
It may involve difficult conversations to realise it
We need to respect the views of others and have an open mind
Common good does not deny differences.
There is a social impact in what we do that we share
Individualism and narrow short term interests against the common good
We do not have a planet B so sharing this one for common good
What is emerging that is new for you & what connections are you making?
Ways to promote collective not just self-interest
Climate change requires action and new urgency about this
We can’t dump our problems onto the next generation
Open conversation needed re. the future of island of Ireland
The dialogue needs to be ongoing not about ‘fixing’
Safe Places for conversation important (or at least ‘safer’ places)
While we hold things in common we can have greater respect for difference
Inclusive planning and decision making necessary for communities to move on
Civic society can take back control but it has been hollowed out
Be aware that social media can polarise
Work to build trust and relationships
Don’t dwell on negatives
Importance of de-labelling and not making assumptions based on labels
Avoid the scapegoat trap
Concept of ‘De-weaponising’
We need to hear excluded, marginalised voices and listen deeply to their message
Envisioning common future can be at the expense of the past
Deaths by suicide need to be connected to past
What would it take to create change towards finding the Common Good?
We need to hold our politicians accountable and we need political leadership
Explore new ways of working together
Engage with people who think differently
Leadership needs to be charismatic and ethical
Women have key role as leaders
We can start small and work up to a bigger scale
We need to create a civic forum
Shared inclusive future needs truth and reconciliation
Dialogue mechanisms that can continue to embrace social changes
Common good needs ownership by civil society
Willingness and honesty needed
Non-threatening environments to engage in
Greater compassion and empathy
Empowered communities working together
Need to address fragmentation of society
Address privatisation of social services
Solidarity across generations
Alternatives to short-termism and reactive politics
Education has key role
Future thinking and visioning
Deep divisions in society do exist and need to be understood but we need to move beyond them. This requires a vision of the future. What kind of society would we like to live in?
What does the concept of Common Good have to offer us now given its not new?
What does it mean in the context of divided society?
What are the key principles that underpin this concept?
Is it contextual or universal?
What are the challenges/critique to the idea of the common good?
What can peace education do to envision and help bring it in to being?
‘In deeply divided societies, where fractured relations continue to impede building a peaceful society for the good of all who live in it, revitalising the understanding of the common good becomes even more pertinent’. Cathy Bollaert
‘The common good is, at heart an ethical call to action or standard for human responsibility’. Patrick Millar & Dennis McCann
‘The common good is public justice. The responsibility of civic society for this is to remind, hold accountable and engage with elected politicians that especially in a differentiated, plural and contested society public justice is a political responsibility and imperative’ Johnston Mc Master
Key Principles Underpinning Common Good (Cathy Bollaert)
HUMAN DIGNITY: Every human life worthy of respect
INTERCONNECTEDNESS: We are interconnected as humans and we depend on each other
SOLIDARITY: Compassion and empathy. Working for the good of all
CIVIC PARTICIPATION: Taking an active role in society both formally and informally
Challenges to common good
‘Creating the common good is an immense challenge for both political and civic society. There are forces of resistance such as sectarianism, hate, an unforgiven and unforgiving past, cultural, political and religious gatekeepers.’ Johnston Mc Master
‘There are powerful forces at work among us to resist the common good, to violate community solidarity and to deny a common destiny.’ Walter Brueggemann
Suspicion due to political and religious abuse of term
Diversity seen as a threat rather than something that enriches society
‘Tolerant Co-existence’ (where tolerance may contradict interconnectedness)
Individualism – Individual freedom prized over equality and connection
Legacy of the past and how the past is commemorated
Perception that in trying to please everyone we end up without substance
Educating and working for common good:
Envisioning & learning together. Building relationships, trust & interconnectedness through dialogue and collaboration
Not just about addressing and acknowledging the past hurts and truth seeking. Need for ethical sharing of narratives and addressing/healing of trauma for better future
Creating multiple safe spaces where difference is explored positively so that it may be valued not feared. Common good needs to acknowledge and support difference also.
Identifying commonality and building on it. Using unifying symbols and cultural practices. Meeting needs of all.
Supporting integrated ‘living well together’ so it becomes the norm
Promoting moving beyond binary politics. Living in diverse communities (Not two)
Developing and applying models of integrated education and living
Deepening social inclusion for minorities and giving voice to excluded
Conclusions: Common Good and Common Security
Need for changed mindset to explore and advance ‘human security’
Idea of common good asks ‘What allows us to live well together in safety?’
Defensive/militarised mindsets create less safety
We can’t be secure at the expense of others or the planet
Meeting our human and planetary needs makes us more secure
Interdependence is about achieving security without use of force
No-one is safe until we are all safe.
Working for common good means building common security.
Building communities of dignity, accountability and responsibility
Building culture of peace by peaceful means is the only way to real security
10/9/19: Attended by 27 EU Ambassadors, the latest in Glencree's Ambassador Dialogue Series focused on the impact of Brexit on British-Irish relations and in particular a possible hard border across the island with submissions from Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Former First Minister Peter Robinson.
20/5/10: HRH Prince Charles returned to Glencree to unveil a commemorative poem engraving with His Excellency President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins. Leaders from cultural, educational, political and business sectors also marked this special event.
2/4/20: A total of 25 Abstracts have been accepted for the Joint Academic Journal to be published by Glencree, under the Peace IV Programme, in collaboration with the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway. The Journal will be launched at an Academic Conference in November.
20/2/20: If you are committed to working through the challenges arising from our violent past, are highly organised and efficient with the personal skills to work on a project that touches on some of the most contentious issues that remain in building sustainable peace, we would like to hear from you.
7/2/20: We are seeking a dynamic, energetic and positive person to join our administrative team. You will work within a team designed create and manage dialogue opportunities between political, government official and diplomatic actors from across the island of Ireland, Great Britain and the EU.