Recognising Irish excellence - Honour them

THE tributes, from everyone from the Glenties Drama Group to Meryl Streep, paid to playwright Brian Friel since his death on Friday were as deserved as they were heartfelt.

Friel was described as “one of the great playwrights of his age” — Colm Tóibín — and “political action in the widest sense” — Stephen Rea. President Michael D Higgins added, on all our behalf, his tribute saying the playwright’s “work is an extraordinary legacy and is of the highest standard, and it ranges so widely”.

Like all great Irish people, and others who made exceptional contributions to this Republic, Friel was eulogised in death but while he was alive we could not find a way to honour his great contribution even though it played a very large part in ending political violence on this island. It is time to end that mealy-mouthed lacuna. It is time we had an honours system. It could be limited to just a few nominations each decade and cheished to such a degree that political parties would not dare hijack it — and 2016 offers the perfect moment to establish a system that honours exceptional Irish achievement.

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