Bells are set to toll in the UK on Friday but a silent flame can send a gentler message

Candle flame by Shan Sheehan
This is a message for all, including those who voted for Brexit.

I live in the hope that all can agree with the following sentiments.

We have greatly different views on how they can be achieved, but can we all join in, in lighting a candle ( a safe one!) on the evening of January 31st?

Bobby McDonagh is a former Irish ambassador to London, Rome and Brussels. In an article in Monday’s Irish Times, he suggests lighting a candle in homes, churches – anywhere.

Candles can denote warmth or welcome. They can speak for us when we cannot find the words. We gather round candles to reflect, to talk or to break bread together.

Mr McDonagh says that a candle is a symbol of Hope. It can mean continuing friendship. It can signify the maintenance of the rights and interests of everyone in all the countries and states of the EU.

It can symbolise the importance of peace, especially the delicate peace in Northern Ireland.

It can celebrate the peace and prosperity that we have had.

As Bobby McDonagh writes:

It may help us too to reflect a little on our respective histories around Europe including in the UK, on the realities rather than the myths, on the shame as well as the glory, on what those who died on the great battlefields of the last century would have wanted of us in this one. Above all, in that context, the candle may remind us that our solemn duty is to make future wars impossible rather than to imagine that we are refighting those of the past.

Please join me in lighting a candle to keep that hope alive.

The full article by Bobby McDonagh is on the Irish Times website.

Candle flame thumbnail in “featured” top row of home page is by Indi Samarajiva, Some rights reserved on Flickr CCL.

* Suzanne Fletcher was a councillor for nearly 30 years and a voluntary advice worker with the CAB for 40 years. Now retired, she is active as a campaigner in the community both as a Lib Dem and with local organisations.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Barry Lofty 29th Jan '20 - 4:20pm

    These words by Bobby McDonagh are so prophetic and just brings it home to me what a sad day the 31/1/20 is for me but most of all for my children and grandchildren. I hope all the years of friendship and cooperation with our European allies will not be thrown away by this awful government.

  • Julian Tisi 29th Jan '20 - 4:49pm

    I think this is a wonderful idea. A candle to me means hope, in the midst of uncertainty or loss. And the silent, un-threatening nature of a candle contrasts with some of the sillier ideas from those “celebrating” our leaving. I shall light a candle at home in the window.

  • Yousuf Farah 29th Jan '20 - 6:28pm

    Hopefully someday we can get back into the EU. Catastrophic mistake to have ever left the bloc.

  • Yousuf Farah 29th Jan ’20 – 6:28pm “Hopefully someday we can get back into the EU. Catastrophic mistake to have ever left the bloc”.

    Come and live in Scotland, Yousuf. You might get back in quicker than you think.

  • A sad little warning for our Brexi’s and Lexi’s. The DUP where the bravest of the brave Brexiteers, alas look how they now squeal.

    After more than nine years as an MEP my last act in the European Parliament will be to vote against the Withdrawal Agreement.

    It will not be a vote against Brexit. As someone who has been a strong supporter of the campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the EU it is difficult to be placed in that position. I campaigned for the United Kingdom to leave the EU, not for part of the UK to be treated differently and continue to be under EU control via a Joint Committee.

    As a unionist from Northern Ireland I have never wanted to see the return to the borders of the past with the Republic of Ireland. However, the focus on this trade should never have been to the exclusion of the far larger and more important market for Northern Ireland within the rest of the United Kingdom. Many of those who have latterly come to oppose barriers to trade within the Irish Sea were curiously silent previously because their focus was blinkered on that north-south axis…….

    Bless, just bless they really don’t like it under the bus. I’m afraid that is the default destination for most of our Brexi’s and Lexi’s.

  • David,
    Ask the EU if they will have you, don’t assume. I’m afraid the Scots Nats are assuming they are in some way special and everyone will roll out the red carpet for them; I suspect in reality they are not and if they are seen as a burden the door will remain closed.

  • Geoffrey Dron 29th Jan '20 - 7:15pm

    @Yousuf Farah: If the EU continues with the grand projet of federalism, there is no way the UK will be going back in.

  • Geoffrey,
    You job is to make Brexit such a sucess we won’t want too. So crack on son, we all await the results of your labours.

  • Yousuf Farah 29th Jan '20 - 7:53pm

    @David Raw
    I already live in Scotland, and I can tell you from first hand experience, that it is not very good. SNP have run Scotland down the sewer, high taxes, poor funding of local councils, food banks on the rise, poverty on the rise, children dying in hospitals, a police system that is a shambles, an education system that is a shambles, two mega hospitals that can’t be opened, parents too afraid to send their children to hospitals. Falling education standards, low and falling mortality rates of young men and boys, long GP and hospital waiting times. Highest drug deaths in Europe, division and discord brought to Scotland when there was none before and an immoral and corrupt SNP administration in Holyrood that ignores all the problems that it has created from a devolved level. And instead prefers to pursue separation from the UK, because to the SNP that’s all that really matters.

    Thanks to the SNP, living in Scotland is nothing to boast about, just because there is very little/no support for Brexit and very little Conservative presence doesn’t mean it is a Utopia. The SNP have ruined Scotland, and are continuing to do so.

  • Suzanne – I’ve been quietly wondering for some time now what to do on Leave day. I knew I wanted to do something that would mark my sorrow and also my hope that we can one day rejoin, but I’ve not been able to think what that should be. Trust you to come up with the answer. My candle will link to yours.

  • @ Yousuf I, too, live in Scotland. Your astonishing tirade is a gross exaggeration supplied without stats. I say this as a former Lib Dem Convener of Social Care.

    Fact : Over the last four years a higher proportion of patients admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours in Scotland than in England.

    Fact : “Alcohol-sales-see-major-drop-across-across Scotland as minimum pricing hits.” ( yesterday). Alcohol minimum pricing (opposed by many Lib Dems) is a success.

    Fact : Free prescriptions in Scotland……. Not England.

    Fact : Scotland, personal care provided by your local council is free if you’re 65 or over. Not in England.

    Fact : Apart from the Labour built PFI hospitals (e.g. the Edinburgh Royal) free hospital visitor parking – unlike the rip offs in England.

    I have undergone two major (one very major) operations in the last eight years in Edinburgh receiving superb care and aftercare …….. try Carlisle for comparison…. I’ve been there….. I hope you never have to.

    Specify which higher taxes…… apart from the slightly higher top rate of income tax which has got general support.

    As Chair of a Foodbank (in Scotland) I can tell you the main driver of increased demand is the austerity and welfare changes introduced by the Con-Lib Coalition at Westminster.

    On a lighter note, pleased to see my Alma Mater beating Oxford this year : › “How St Andrews edged above Oxford in this year’s university …….”

  • Federal. The US is a federal country. It did not do them any harm and helped them to become a powerful country.The World is forming alliances of one sort or another all the time.

  • Yousuf is quite right about the SNP government’s failures. There was an excellent column by journalist Stephen Daisley this week that says it all. Anyone living outside of Scotland who thinks “that Nicola Sturgeon comes across very well on TV” should read this.

  • Yousuf Farah 29th Jan '20 - 9:50pm

    @David Raw
    I see that you’re using the quintessential SNP tactic of deflection, no matter how bad it is in Scotland; as long as we’re better than England, it’s okay. If that’s how you want to defend the SNP’s record in Scotland, then I think it’s for the best that we call it a day. Nats do it all the time, and it always leads to dead-end debates with no substance, probably how they’d preferred it, since you can’t defend a bad record, unless you support the bad record and/or those who’ve failed in devolved government.

  • RossMcL 29th Jan ’20 – 9:40pm

    I’m not sure I’d believe anything that Mr. Daisley writes about the SNP; he has a viscereal hatred of them.
    BTW..His views on many other subjects are also rather questionable.

  • @ RossMcL Expats is correct, and there we have it in a nutshell – a Liberal Democrat relying on the ever so impartial Daily Mail to back up an opinion.

    Lib Dems will only be listened to in the cold post Clegg era if they focus on accuracy and fairness.

  • expats/David: Neither of you fancy challenging any of the facts in the Daisley article then? Yes he has a visceral hatred of the SNP – with good reason in his case – and yes he happens to write his column in the Daily Mail. Neither of those things means he is automatically wrong. It’s a very well-written column and contains a fact-based description of how the SNP government has failed Scotland.

  • ossMcL 30th Jan ’20 – 9:36am………expats/David: Neither of you fancy challenging any of the facts in the Daisley article then?

    Basically his article says, “Everything isn’t perfect in Scotland and it’s all the fault of the SNP”.

    When, in his article regarding Nicola Sturgeon, he writes,,, “What will Sturgeon say on Wednesday? This might be a scandalous thing for a political journalist to admit but: I don’t care. Truly, whatever scheme or device or misdirection she conjures from her deep well of poll-driven cynicism is of no interest to me.”

    That tells me all I need to know about his ‘facts’.

  • expats you’re having difficulty there distinguishing between opinion and facts. Here, I’ve taken the facts from the article for you. This is the record of your friendly SNP government in action. Tell me which of these is inaccurate:
    1. The Royal Hospital for Sick Children, due in 2012 and still off-limits to youngsters for their own safety.
    2. the government’s own waiting time target for cancer treatment not met since 2012.
    3. students £5.5billion in debt.
    4. Accident and Emergency waiting time target not met since 2017.
    5. one in five patients forced to wait more than 18 weeks to begin mental health treatment.
    6. 2,000 families left in the dark about the circumstances of a loved one’s death because of post-mortem delays.
    7. Scotland withdrew from international comparators on education because they didn’t like the results (which highlighted repeated failures).
    8. cut funding to alcohol and drugs programmes and now we are the drugs death capital of Europe.
    9. We have a hospital in Livingston with a part-time children’s ward — the very phrase is absurd — because of staffing problems that have dragged on for years.
    10.a ‘super-hospital’ in Glasgow where parents are afraid to take their children in case they are the latest life claimed by clinically-acquired infection.
    If these things were the record of a Tory, Labour or LibDem government you would rightly be appalled by them. Dislike the journalist as much as you like, but address the facts.

  • David McHardy 30th Jan '20 - 2:23pm

    This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing, Suzanne.

  • suzanne fletcher 30th Jan '20 - 4:38pm

    The article was not there to have an in depth discussion on Scotland, important though that is going to be! thanks for positive thoughts – and my goodness we need those right now.

  • Peter Watson 30th Jan '20 - 5:07pm

    @suzanne fletcher “thanks for positive thoughts”
    It is telling that the current mood in the party means that even below an article talking about warmth, hope, peace and a gentle message, discussions can become a bit crotchety!

    From the outside it looks like an uneasy truce that brought two sides of the Lib Dems together to oppose Brexit has ended. Now it feels like people are talking about the pros and cons of the Coalition, the Orange Book, Economic Liberalism, etc. more than has been the case for a long time. Perhaps a leadership vacuum is also contributing to this.

    It seems too sensationalist to talk about a battle for the heart and soul of the party, but …

  • richard underhill 31st Jan '20 - 11:39am

    At 23.00 GMT I will be in bed, hopefully asleep.

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