Last week the MacGill. This week the John Hewitt. The week after next the William Carleton. Brian Feeney points out that the historical, cultural and political content our summer schools is overwhelmingly nationalist, even if the orginal figures being celebrated were not. Why, he asks, do Unionists not organise their own Unionist specific events?
The absence of unionist reflection on politics and history creates another problem. It�s this. Republicans crowd in to hear unionists speaking and can question them and exchange views but it’s all one-way traffic.
Occasionally you hear complaints from republicans at such gatherings who use the opportunity to tell unionist politicians in particular that there is no reciprocation. Where can republicans speak to a mainly unionist audience? Who would invite them? Where would the venue be? The answer from unionist guests is usually twofold. First, there is no unionist equivalent of occasions like ‘West Belfast Talks Back’ and secondly, �the time is not right�, such a weak and pathetic response no-one dignifies it with serious consideration.
Those questions deserve real answers. Why are unionists afraid to appear in public and question sacred tenets of unionism? Why can they not argue the toss with each other? Would other unionists think they are ‘selling the pass’? Why are there no unionist intellectuals?
There are Unionist intellectuals of course, as the, albeit sporadic output, of some of the Cadogan Group demonstrates. But what Feeney highlights is that, generally, they don’t talk. This is also a question I have heard senior politicians in both the main Unionist parties ruminate on, not least after their own appearances as at the like of West Belfast Festival, or the MacGill.