Setting the unionist cat amongst the cultural pigeons: Nelson McCausland on why unionists ignore culture at their peril

The Gransha Suite at La Mon Hotel had obviously been packed with DUP Conference delegates for the previous session on Challenges in Policing when I eventually arrived earlier this evening. PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott was still giving a few interviews to the press while a Lambeg Drum was being set up on the other side of the stage.

Nelson McCausland was up next, addressing DUP delegates as a dedicated follower of culture and MLA, rather than as Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure.

Nelson McCausland watching pupils from Belfast Boys Model School practicing their Fifes and Drum before his session at 2010 DUP Conference on Why unionists ignore culture at their peril

He started by defining culture as “cultural traditions, heritage and sport”, saying that these were the things that “give us a sense of place, a sense of community and a sense of belonging”.

For the past two years, children at some schools have been learning the fyffes fifes and drums. Some pupils from Belfast Boys Model School then got up to demonstrate their skills.

At this point turn the volume of your computer up loud and click play below. (MP3)

Nelson’s pitch was that a city like Belfast was “no longer an industrial powerhouse” so “we need to look in new directions for the economy”. He singled out creative industries, cultural tourism and cultural industries as examples.

There is an argument that UK and Ireland are now so reliant on service industries and the knowledge economy that we’re doomed. In a post-recession economic wasteland, people who can produce things will be king. Thinkers and tour guides will be forming a queue at the expanding number of dole offices that will be sprouting up on street corners like Starbucks franchises. So Nelson’s mileage may vary …

What brings people to Northern Ireland for a holiday? It’s not going to be the sunshine.

Nelson suggested that more could be made of existing tourist sites to draw in foreign visitors. He pointed to America’s love for 7th President Andrew Jackson and suggested that the Andrew Jackson Cottage near Carrickfergus should erect a flagpole, fly the Stars and Stripes and advertise to Americas onboard cruise ships as they sail into Belfast Lough to dock for some shopping and sightseeing. The speculated that the Ulster-Scots Academy [which I think is the same body as the Ullans Academy?] could “produce a exhibition and an experience that is accurate, authentic and entertaining”.

Successful Ulster golfers bring overseas business to NI golf courses. Calling it “Team GB” means that we miss the opportunity to be included in the branding – Nelson favours switching to “Team UK”.

James Gamble, co-founder of Procter and Gamble, was born near Enniskillen and educated in Portora Royal School. Why don’t we connect with the Ulster diaspora?

The lecture then changed to look at Irish culture. Rather than looking for best practice and successful ideas from that sphere, Nelson quickly turned to critique the politicisation of Irish culture, going back to the late 19th century Gaelic revival and quoted a line from a 1982 speech by a Sinn Fein cultural officer Patrick McCreevy who said

“Every phrase you learn [in Irish] is a bullet in the freedom struggle.” (Padrig O’Maoicraoibhe)

It’s a subject Nelson has touched on before, including in a letter to the Belfast Telegraph in July 2007. Sinn Fein’s “cultural war” is serving to strengthen the nationalists community and at the same tie undermining unionist community (by demeaning unionist culture and trying “to convince unionists that they are really Irish).

Slide about Irish/Nationalist culture - part of Nelson McCausland's session at 2010 DUP Conference on Why unionists ignore culture at their peril

With a decade of centenaries just around the corner, he challenged how the Northern Irish angle of the 1916 Easter Rising [link to a post on Nelson’s blog] might be celebrated in 2016. He mischievously explained that the northern rebellion consisted of Denis McCullough the president of the Irish Republican Brotherhood taking 150 followers on the train to Tyrone. Reaching Dungannon they met Patrick McCartan, leader of the local Tyrone volunteers who wanted reassurances that the Pope had given his blessing to the rising and that German guns had arrived in Kerry. They turned around and headed back to Belfast. McCullough accidentally shot himself in the hand on the journey home. “Not much to celebrate” suggested Nelson.

Nelson McCausland speaking at his session at 2010 DUP Conference on Why unionists ignore culture at their perilWithin the “broad church” of unionism, Nelson identified historical characters worth celebrating: Francis Hutcheson, Lord Kelvin and Amy Carmichael. He quoted the 1975 Bullock Report and its assertion that “no pupil should be expected to … live and act as if school and home represent two totally separate and different cultures which have to be kept firmly apart”. Catholic schools and their embedded cultural teaching seemed to be the one area where Nelson felt unionist could learn something. After all, if a school in a nationalist area could put on a play about Robert Emmet (an Irish rebel) …

For any cultural or linguistic tradition to thrive, it needs to be in two places. It needs to be in the school where it is affirmed and validated and passed on; but it also needs to be there on the media. And the question is are we getting a fair share of cultural expression from the community that we belong to in terms of BBC, UTV and the other channels. There are issues there we take up and are still taking up with the BBC.”

He finished by referring to the lack of unionist cultural content in the Belfast Festival at Queens.

Too often we have allowed our cultural traditions to be marginalised and excluded. And in many ways there is still a cultural establishment where unionists are under-represented and therefore it is easy for those organising events programmes festivals to forget about us or to ignore us. And that’s something we need to challenge.

As an example, he pointed to the absence of crowd-drawing gospel concerts from the festival programme. [Update – Nelson has now blogged about cultural inclusivity and gospel music in particular over on The Minister’s Pen blog.]

Was quality an issue? In an ad-libbed remark, he went on to say

I did point out that one of the star turns in the Queens Festival this year was Hugo Duncan. So I reckoned that if Hugo Duncan was of high enough standard for the Queens Festival I think we should be all right.

Guess who’s not going to get a Christmas card from his Uncle Hugo this year!

Overall, quite a different approach to the spirit of openness and shared exploration voiced by Nelson’s party colleague and ex-leader Lord Bannside at the Columbanus Celebration earlier this week.

The full audio (MP3) from the 35 minute session is available if you’re interested.

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  • cavanman

    Narrow minded sectarian horseshit when it comes to Irish culture that exists and flourishes in Northern Ireland.

    Unionist culture needs more honest recognition on the entire Ireland but a only witless fool thinks denigrating t’other is a good place to start

  • The Raven

    “He finished by referring to the lack of unionist cultural content in the Belfast Festival at Queens.” See, I still don’t understand what “unionist cultural content” might actually entail.

    “So, Duke ?”
    “Yeah?”
    “Ummm are you a Protestant?”
    “Maybe…”
    “Well…if you are, can we tag you as “unionist cultural content”?”
    “F*** off.”

    “Right, that didn’t go well…who’s next…?”
    “Try yer man, Hannon …”

    “Errrr…Neil…we’re putting on this festival, right? We need to big up the Prods a bit…to keep the Minister happy…I know you wrote that Sunrise song and everything, but could you tone down the ecumenical thing a tad…?”

    Etc.

    See, I mention these two characters, because if there’s a side to Norn Irn culture worth celebrating, they’re part of it. Fife and drum, bodhran and uillean mean nothing to me, and many of those younger than me. Some of us identify more with a decent Fender played well at the Oh Yeah centre, by an up and coming band, than we do with…what’s this again…Ullans?

    We’ve allowed this strange, smile-less, bearded little man to become Gauleiter for Culture. And he really hasn’t got a clue.

    See, I read this: “he singled out creative industries”. Then I follow a few links to DeCAL, and the Arts Council sites, and see “funding closed”, as it has been for most of the last 12 months. And I really despair about democracy. Because if it brings us Nelson McCausland as a Minister for Culture, we’re really in trouble. I won’t even start on DETI, and the rudderless Warspite that it’s become when it comes to creative industries.

    I’m not suggesting any sort of apartheid here – pure heritage versus pseudo-yoof culture. Fife and drum versus drum and bass. I understand that local “culture”, whatever it may be, requires some form of promotion and protection. I even get that he was playing to his own audience this evening, as opposed to being Minister for Jollies.

    But there’s a wider picture here; a bigger and more stratified audience, many layers of which do not see our cultural future being based on drums – well, maybe they do, but the drums that they want are made by Mapex. And they certainly aren’t represented in the thrust of the presentation which Alan has reported on this evening.

    By the way, I had to google the three people worthy of “celebration”.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Er……….is there a deliberate mistake in the Nelson McCausland slide show?
    Has he not mixed up the quotes.
    Surely it would have been the Sinn Féin Cultural guy who would have spoken about seven Gaelic Leaguers in O’Connell Street. (ie The 1916 Easter Rising)and presumably the reference to words and bullets was spoken by PH Pearse in 1914.
    …….which would of course be completely different.

  • Nelson McCausland

    At present there is an Ulster-Scots Academy steering group, which is finalising a business case and a programme of work. This is not the same as the Ullans Academy.

    The quotes were indeed attributed to the right people and the Sinn Fein quote was taken from a Sinn Fein publication.

  • “Catholic schools and their embedded cultural teaching seemed to be the one area where Nelson felt unionist could learn something.”

    “Embedded cultural teaching” (that’s a euphemism right?) is the one area the state sector has got absolutely nothing to “learn” from the Catholic schools.

    On one hand, Peter Robinson is very courageously taking on the educational segregationalists whilst simultaneously Nelson attempts to solidify the “protestantism” or “Ulsterisation” of “our” schools? Not a consistent approach.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Thank you Mr McCausland. Its a genuine cross community experience that youre familiar with PH Pearse and I am not.

  • Framer

    Nelson McCausland states at the DUP conference “the northern rebellion consisted of Denis McCullough the president of the Irish Republican Brotherhood taking 150 followers on the train to Tyrone. Reaching Dungannon they met Patrick McCartan, leader of the local Tyrone volunteers who wanted reassurances that the Pope had given his blessing to the rising and that German guns had arrived in Kerry. They turned around and headed back to Belfast. McCullough accidentally shot himself in the hand on the journey home.”

    It is correct to say that the northern end of the 1916 Rising consisted of little more than a pointless trip to Coalisland that went no further but that was deliberately to avoid stirring up Ulster. Pearse had earlier tried to keep the Irish volunteer guns landed at Howth out of the north.

    The leaders of the Rising did not consider the Protestant question overly. Some like Casement had nonsensical views about the Unionists turning away from Britain, misreading their conditional approach to the UK. Some obviously had Ulster and particularly Tyrone connections like Clarke, McDermott and Connolly, and the key figure Joseph McGarrity in the US, but the Rising was essentially postponed for 50 years here until Unionism was weakened by its failure to assimilate modernity.

    Our 1920s Troubles were mercifully brief, if bloody as opposed in length to the absurdly long version form 1968.

    Not too sure if McCullough was shot or that McCartan was such a papal Catholic. He was somewhat left wing and a medical doctor ending his career as a senator and Clann na Poblachta presidential candidate in the 1940s. McCullough was briefly a Donegal TD and both were sent to the US as envoys.

    Nelson is absolutely correct in that our history can attract visitors while our conflict should continue through discussion and re-assessment of the role of Republicans, in particular. The new book by Gerard Murphy on the killings of Cork Protestants in 1922 and their consequent disappearance from the city is particularly apposite.

  • Cynic

    I am a Unionist.

    Culturally I feel as close to a caveman as I feel to Nelson’s definition of Unionist culture and identity.

    This appears a crude attempt to do what the Shinners have done to Nationalism. Create a sense of a cultural monolith – you cant be a unionist / nationalist if you don’t believe what we do and don’t vote DUP/SF

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    Unionism is a political attachment not a culture.

    Ulster Scotch is a distinct brand of Irish culture that if marketed the right way could be a great success, sadly its got idiots like the the Minister for No Culture McCausland involved and that idiot Laird of Artigarvan

  • John East Belfast

    “Sinn Fein’s “cultural war” is serving to strengthen the nationalists community and at the same tie undermining unionist community (by demeaning unionist culture and trying “to convince unionists that they are really Irish)”.

    I know he wrote this bit 3 years ago but it is wrong now as it is wrong then.

    I am unionist, Protestant and of Scottish lineage but I am still Irish.
    Otherwise Nelson is maintaining that I am still a Planter and that Irishness is only the Gaelic and Catholic variety.

    I am totally comfortable with my Irishness and the fact that there are many shades of Green – all of which are legitimate and to be valued.

    However I do agree with his efforts and Lord Lairds to promote a culture in Northern Ireland that is not solely Gaelic and Catholic – however that doesnt mean we are less Irish.

    This is reinforced by the fact that the “Scots – Irish” in the US are refferred to as that – they are not Scottish and they are not Irish but they are people who arrived in th US from Ireland having a couple of hundred years before that likely arrived in Ireland from Scotland.

    The Ulster Protestant has long since expanded the definition of Irish and that fact should be embraced by both communities as opposed to one trying to push it out and another trying to pull it away.

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    100% agree with you here John.

    Culture should have nothing to do with your political or religious leanings, culture should be embracing where your from and its customs.

    I myself am of scottish and irish stock and proud of both.

  • Cynic

    I have to say that I disagree ….it should be what you define it as. If religion or race is your thing then fine. It’s your choice. I dont object to Nelson’s expression of what he sees as Prod / Unionist culture ….I just don’t want it foisted on me or any suggestion that its something i MUST aspire to to be a true Unionist.

  • John East Belfast

    APA

    I would say that your political leanings should not be dependent on your cultural or religious background.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Not consistent at all and, as such, profoundly depressing. The cultural nonsense from McCausland in and of itself is embarassing in the same way as tall tales told by a smelly, drunken uncle at a wedding are, not least as they’re so transparently false and nobody pays any attention to them and he forgets ever telling them. The education echoes of his counter-part O’Dowd though is troubling though and reminds us that the DUPes have a very long way still to travel.

  • Nunoftheabove

    John East Belfast

    Should not be and more importantly do not for very large numbers of decent citizens. Certainly not for those of us who haven’t surrendered our powers of critical thought in favour of sinister religious superstition or invest their political aspirations in hopless chancers and demagogues or in the dangerous nationalisms upon which they depend.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I personally have a very wide definition of culture, and this thread has opened up a good debate on the subject. Nelsons version of “Unionist/Protestant/Ulster-Scots” culture comes in for ridicule from many, and although very real and genuine to some in reality it is only a small section of the community.
    I think the trap he and many others have fallen into (I include myself in this) is having viewed the central role “Irish” culture has played in the Nationalist identity and how it has been used as a weapon against “the Brits” he is trying to mimic its development over the last 100 yrs, not entirely unsuccessfully I might add.
    BUT, there is a big problem, it is 90% manufactured and only 10% real, and before you disagree Nelson, I talking about what still passes for “Irish” culture, including the music, art and sports, I don’t think the broad community wants to go down that route, but possibly feel they have no choice as a reaction against the Irish cultural attack, and while those things unique and special need celebrated and encouraged, but never should they be exagerated to the extent they become a lie to fight a lie.

  • John,
    I agree entirely that you have the complete right to self define as Irish and do not accept Nelson McCausland suggesting otherwise, However, I trust you accept that Nelson is not Irish and neither am I nor many other unionists. That you self identify as Irish makes you no less an Ulsterman unionist, Protestant etc. However, the fact that I do not self define as Irish means that I am no less an Ulsterman, unionist Protestant etc.

    We all have the right to self define on this issue: Nelson cannot impose a description on you nor you on him.

  • John East Belfast

    Turgon

    If you dont define yourself as Irish then what are you ?

  • Nunoftheabove

    The notion that Irish culture (to generalize, for a purpose) was created by the republican movement shouldn’t be allowed to pass unobstructed. It certainly has been deployed, pushed, promoted, used and coloured by them as it was politically expedient for them to emphasize separateness. Provo Pearse-ism, if you will.

    That said, as a culture its constituent parts always enjoyed subscription from people north and south for a very long time before Adams and company first reached for their spray cans and Irish dictionaries in the 70s. It therefore has and always has had an integrity of its own and has been dishonestly accused of being an entirely adopted and vulgar two fingered gesture to unionists and/or the British. Most of this is based in unionist ignorance and is commonly expressed in straightforwardly sectarian terms.

    Aspects of McCausland’s empty, lean-to ‘superprod’ package are quite simply laughable – others, whole-cloth fabrications. More seriousness and insulting however is his attempts to construct an identity to which ‘proper’ Protestant Unionists will be enthusiastically conscripted. Much the same has been tried before, attempts being made to create an actual formal and fairly precise equivalence between northern Protestantism and Orangeism, for example – this is entirely sinister and insulting to a great many Protestants and Unionists.

    McCausland is a convinced (indeed, stubborn and intolerant) creationist, uber christian and a firm believer in the theory that northern protestants are direct descendents of the lost tribes of Israel (wasn’t Robert Bradford a member of the Society For Proclaiming that Britain is Israel , now that I recall it?). A man with an imagination quite this vivid should surely be able to generate cultural ideas slightly more colourful than running the flying the stars and stripes up a flagpole in Carrickfergus, no ?

  • Drumlins Rock

    “attempts being made to create an actual formal and fairly precise equivalence between northern Protestantism and Orangeism, for example”
    Nun, would you also agree that the equivalence between Catholicism and Gaelic Games is also sinister and insulting? Here in Tyrone when the county team is doing well the Protestant community comes under quite some pressure to go along with that culture, I can only imagine how intense it must be for Catholics who do not normally identify with the GAA.
    As for “Irish Culture” it has been used as a weapon long before Adams, the GAA as mentioned above is probably much more active on that front than SF will ever be.

  • John,
    I regard myself as British, from Ulster, a unionist and a Protestant as well as lots of other things: a father, an evangelical pretty fundamentalist Christian, someone interested in history and reading. I could go on and on. I do not fundamentally self define by my nationality but it is part of my identity and that nationality, rationality etc. is as mentioned above.

    However, I in no way question you self defining as Irish (amongst other things). I am a little taken aback that the tenor of your reply (maybe I am mistaken in this) implies that it is odd that I am not Irish.

  • sorry not rationality: regionality. The spell checker baulked at regionality and I mistakenly agreed to its correction.

  • John East Belfast

    Turgon

    You must have picked up something in the tenor of my reply that I had not meant – I was simply interested.

    However as you know being British is that you are a citisen of the United Kingdom of Great Britian and Northern Ireland – ie England. Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland. Of course the latter is a more recent construct and used to consist of the whole Ireland.
    I doubt a 100 years ago an Irish Unionist would have had any trouble describing himself as Irish – Carson being the greatest example.

    in my opinion a Unionist should appreciate the distinct nature of our United Kingdom and its constituent parts.

    Indeed I cant see how you can call yourself a British citisen but not ascribe to one of them ?

    I dont see why any unionist would have a problem with that ?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Turgon, I am usually happy enough to call myself Irish, because I live on and was born on the Island called Ireland, its a geographic fact, my nationality is British, that is a political fact, my ethnic origin is overwhelmingly of Scottish origin but settled in Ulster for around 300 yrs (with a wee bit of Heugenot to spice things up) , that’s a fact, my native language, and that of my ancestors for many generation is English, with an influence of Ulster-Scots from East Donegal, fact. My religion is the Presbyterian version of Protestant Christianity, that is my choice and background both. I am also a Unionist by choice, Orangeman, historian and loads of other things.

    Will anyone say I am any less Irish because of any of the above things?

  • DR,
    No you need be none the less Irish because of any of those and no one should regard you as less Irish because of them. However, although I share many of the same characteristics I would not regard myself as Irish. That is not better or worse; just different.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Drumlins Rock

    It’s not quite like that, at least in my experience. Also, I would say straight away that I’m never comfortable with any attempt to counterpose arguments about/with the GAA with those on Orangeism – there isn’t any obvious equivalence between the two and I must say that I find that arguments suggesting that there is are more normally made by opportunist unionists politicians or by lumpen loyalists who call Talkback on slow news days.

    It would seem laugh-out-loud ridiculous to me for example to be told either that I or anyone else couldn’t be considered a ‘proper catholic’ or Irish person if I didn’t play GAA sports, or wasn’t interested in them other aspects of GAA or knee-deep in an earnest appreciation of the language.

    Catholics who have only at most a nodding acquaintance with GAA, or who would openly prefer soccer, wouldn’t in my experience feel anything by way of disapproval or pressure from the GAA-ites beyond harmless pub slagging simply because they weren’t interested in it or took no heed of it. There are of course some folks who would be a little sniffy if you preferred to talk about Celtic or Chelsea than the Kerry Minors’ semi-final performance in their company but sure there are snobs in most aspects of life, sport perhaps more than most.

    I agree that Irish culture has been used as a weapon long pre-Adams but you would really need to review the history of the GAA to understand its substantial significance in the cultural, social and political life of the country.

    When you say that the Protestant community in your part of Tyrone comes under some sort of pressure to go ‘along with it’ when the Tyrone team is doing well, what form does this pressure take and when you indicate that it would be easier to go along with it than not to, what do you believe is expected of you, assuming that you were minded to comply with that expectation (e.g. beyond not complaining about county coloured flags nailed up on lamp-posts etc) ?

  • John East Belfast

    Turgon

    you realy dont seem to be getting the Union bit of being a unionist

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think Id have to agree that Catholics in Tyrone tend to identify with the county team regardless of having an overt interest in GAA. Its very basic.
    Speaking from my own experience, I always considered myself a fairly lukewarm (if not tepid) GAA supporter in the 1970s. In part thats because Im from Antrim which alas has a very poor record and does not punch its weight at national level.
    All kinds of complex reasons….theres a division in the Hurlers (me) and Footballers. A north antrim/south antrim (Belfast divide) and traditionally Belfast clubs can never get along anyway. And of course Soccer is much bigger.
    A recipe for poor performances.
    So generally speaking I only ever got one or two outings a year to see the county team, although memorably that included an All Ireland Final.
    Paradoxically living now in a hot bed of GAA activity and having two sons who played and a grandson starting out, it is very much part of the broader community in Armagh.
    So I get several outings a year.
    The Antrim AND Armagh thing. I dont feel anyone is pressured……to support a team. Its a bit like a mini-world cup every year. You dont have to actually know anything about the sport to get the shirt on.
    Of course many are lukewarm. The “Frankies” in the Antrim crowd (and possibly I am one) are dismissed by hardcore Antrim fans who never miss a game. But then thats only about a dozen people…..uber fans.
    The way it works is that its “my” school, “my” village, “my” county. …and yes “my” nation.
    The nature of the sport means that everybody knows somebody on the county team. The great joy is that you can say “oh I know him” or increasingly “I know his dad”

  • John,
    I have not mentioned the union apart from in passing. This discussion has been about being Irish. I am not Irish; you are. That is fine. I have no problem with that. I am a unionist with different views on a number of issues to you; you are also a unionist. All that is fine. I do not set any test to decide if you are “getting the Union bit of unionist” I do not need to pass any of your tests to be a “proper” unionist. Indeed I find that last comment a bit insulting. Maybe try accepting that I “get” unionist just as much, not more nor less, than you.

    I have entirely respected your unionism, Irishness and all the other things you have self defined as without criticism or complaint. I would regard doing anything else as the height of arrogance. I wish you could extend the same courtesy to me.

  • John East Belfast

    Turgon

    I just cant see how you can define yourself as British but deny being English, Scots, Welsh or Irish – especially when I assume you were born and raised in the latter ?

  • RepublicanStones

    Here in Tyrone when the county team is doing well the Protestant community comes under quite some pressure to go along with that culture,

    As I come from the same area as you DR, I would be interested to hear about this pressure which is exerted on ‘your community’ ? I suppose the presence of mayor O’Neill up the town for switching on the christmas lights this evening was ‘pressure’ 😉

  • John,
    I cannot see why the fact that I do not self define as Irish means that I do not get the Union bit of being a unionist. Indeed I regard that remark as a bit insulting: something you have failed to address.

    I was born in Ulster (in Coleraine as it happens). That does not make me Irish. I regard myself as a British person from Ulster. Despite having lived for a few years in GB and indeed having travelled fairly extensively in various parts of the world, I have met practically no one who objected to or queried my self definition. Indeed on what we tend to call “the mainland” (I know some nationalists do not like that term so I tend to try to avoid it) most people I have ever met automatically assume that I would not regard myself as Irish.

    I know it is probably irrelevant to you but the Belfast Agreement (not that I support it) formally allowed me to self define in whatever way I choose. The fact that you cannot understand my choice is frankly irrelevant. I have not queried your self definition: maybe you should allow me to self define as I choose. Does my self definition threaten you in some way? Yours does not threaten me.

    If you want to be Irish I am entirely happy for you. I do not question or doubt it. I do not regard it as preventing you also being British. I on the other hand am British and am not Irish. That is neither a good nor a bad thing: it is just the way it is.

  • qwerty12345

    I’m a nationalist and dont identify with the GAA at all.

    I can only talk about the area in which I live but the GAA to me has always meant conservatism and nepotism. I’m amused that some unionists think that it is or has been somehow the IRA at play. It isnt. The most radical thing the GAA are ever gonna do is nail a sports flag to a telegraph pole. If that worries anyone then perhaps its time for unionists to think how nationalists feel when the towns in which we are a majority are covered in loyalist paraphenalia during the marching season.

  • Nelson McCausland

    I want to pick up on just a couple of the points made above. My intention is also to do a series of posts on my own blog on the theme Culture Matters and this will afford an opportunity to consider in more depth the things I touched on at the conference.

    1. Identity is multi-layered – I have a national identity, a regional identity, a cultural identity, a religious identity, a political identity, a local identity and others as well. In my case I am British, an Ulsterman, an Ulster-Scot, an evangelical Protestant, a Belfast man …

    2. We all have a right to define ourselves and to have our own combination of identities. As such there is nothing to prevent someone being British and Irish, whether you have that as a regional or a cultural identity.

    3. The strategy of Irish cultural absorption was noted by Brendan Clifford: ‘This is the end part of a strategy which was worked out by some very respectable supporters of the Provisional IRA in the republic in 1970-71 … A process which would end with the people who are now unionists being indoctrinated into the nationalist culture.’ [Parliamentary Despotism – John Hume’s Aspiration, January 1986]

    4. Cultural absorption has long been an ambition of Irish nationalists. It was expressed a long time ago by by David Patrick Moran (1871-1936) as ‘The foundation of Ireland is the Gael and the Gael must be the element that absorbs.’ [The Philosophy of Irish Ireland]

  • Nelson,
    Thank you for that. Some may try to argue about points 3 and 4 (though I would very largely agree). Points 1 and 2 are pretty much unarguable by anyone who would regard themselves as a democrat.

  • Drumlins Rock

    nah, its more like being the only guy in the council leisure centre Gym not wearing a GAA top, or the number of businesses that display signed Tyrone tops in prominent locations on their premises, or when you say where you from coming up to finals or whatever the automatic presumption “are you going to the match on Sunday?”

  • Cynic

    My point exactly…its a mixed up bag and your choice of combination – cultural /political pick and mix

  • Drumlins Rock

    qwerty, do you ever feel under pressure to go with the flow and cheer on your club/county?

  • Drumlins Rock

    its a bit ironic that those policies have been completely counter productive on the whole.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Nun, I’m more than happy to equate the two organisations, they perform similar roles within the two communities. Maybe you would really need to review the history of the Orange Order to understand its substantial significance in the cultural, social and political life of the country. 🙂

    See my reply above to RS.

  • anonymous

    Of course everyone in NI has a perfect civil right to call himself Irish, British, or both, or to be a citizen of the UK, ROI, or both. That said, respecting someone else’s right to decide whether he is culturally or legally British or Irish is not the same as thinking their opinions reflect reality. We’d also respect the right of an NI’er to decide he was Portuguese, and to take that citizenship if Portugal would have him. We might also think he was crazy.

    Are there any objective criteria? I would say that the first child of Ulster Scots who was born in Ireland (yes, I know that’s a simplification) was also the first one who was Irish, whether he thought so or not. Turgon’s posts above seem to argue that there are no criteria, only arbitrary personal judgments. I didn’t know the Presbyterians taught postmodernism 🙂

  • anonymous

    > a process which would end with the people who are now >unionists being indoctrinated into the nationalist culture.’

    That was somewhere between ignorant and bigoted in 1971, and now it’s just out of all correspondence with reality. First of all, minorities are being assimilated everywhere in the world all of the time, but both the majority and the minority always give way to something new. If you’ve spent any time in London or Los Angeles, you know about this process. EuroAmericans in New York didn’t erase Puerto Rican or Korean culture (regardless of whether they tried) – instead the meaning of being a New Yorker has changed. An ROI that suddenly had a 15% or 20% minority of Ulster Protestants would be a different society from either the ROI or NI today (I’m not predicting that there will be a UI in any foreseeable future time, just engaging your line of argument).

    Secondly, Irish people are far more sophisticated now than in 1971, due to the EU, the collapsing influence of the church, the economic boom (may it rest in peace), and various other things. The kind of cultural chauvinism you talk about in your points 3 and 4 is much weaker. Few to no nationalists have any interest in forcing any cultural change on you.

  • RepublicanStones

    So this pressure being exerted on your community amounts to lads wearing jerseys, signs of support (and who puts up signs of support in unprominent places?) and people being friendly, I mean who the feck do people think they are asking you if your going to a football match….the bastards !

    Btw DR, I’m regularly in Dungannon leisure centre and the majority of lads present are of the east European variety, not big GAA fans. And little old me in my Arsenal jersey.

  • The Third Policeman

    “nah, its more like being the only guy in the council leisure centre Gym not wearing a GAA top, or the number of businesses that display signed Tyrone tops in prominent locations on their premises, or when you say where you from coming up to finals or whatever the automatic presumption “are you going to the match on Sunday?”

    *Rolls eyes*

  • qwerty12345

    Hi DR,

    I dont really ever feel pressure to go along with it all, but it is hard to get away from. I can understand your sentiments.

    Im from a small town in Fermanagh where GAA is a religion. It’s more of a case of most other people are into it and I’m not, so uh it makes for somewhat uninformed (on my part) sports banter in the barbers, thats about the extent of it for me.

    Really though, where I’m from GAA is completely apolitical and has little to do with any cultural or national sentiment which was obviously there at it’s foundation. Its just a sport that a lot of people are nuts about and I’ve never gotten at all.

    A long time ago someone suggested to me that to not be into GAA meant I wasnt being a good Irishman. The person who said it wasnt very bright and I laughed it off. So thats it, one such comment in 40 years.

  • qwerty12345

    Well said anonymous

  • PN

    Anonymous is quite right.

    Suppose my ancestors came from Scotland and I have never travelled further east than Estonia. Suppose also that I maintain my identity is Han Chinese.

    I’m sure no democrat would take away my right to say this. However, would anyone be prepared to agree with me that I actually was Chinese? I don’t think anyone would, and I think they would be right not to. It would be pretty fun to be Aztec, Atlantean or Martian, but that doesn’t make it true.

    There are brute facts about identity. Someone born on Ireland is in some sense Irish whether they like it or not; just as someone born within the jurisdiction of the UK is in some sense British whether they like it or not.

    What Turgon and McCausland are here doing is confusing people’s absolute right to have their identity recognised as legitimate no matter what it is, with having a right to say your identity is whatever you want it to be.

    In the words of that brilliant and important representative of Ulster-Scots culture (who I’ll bet won’t get mentioned in these ’embedded cultural teaching’ classes) John Hewitt:

    “Firstly, I am an Ulsterman steeped in the traditions of this place. Secondly, I am Irish, of this Ireland. Thirdly, I am British, and finally, in a more diffuse way, I am European. It may make it easier for you to understand if you remove one of those elements but if you do you are no longer describing who I am.”

    The same goes if you are describing yourself.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Drumlins Rock

    Not much of an answer I must say. Judging by your response to RS your idea of ‘pressure’ is insubstantial and largely imagined. I’m no big fan of the GAA however I really cannot see how you can argue that they and the OO perform similar roles within ‘the two communities’.

    Incidentally I am well read and up to speed with the history of the OO which is one of the reasons I am comfortable speaking with some authority to how loathesome it is and how malevolent its role in northern life has been and to some degree continues to be, irrespective of the intentions of its members (not all of whom are raging anti-catholic bigots) and their own feelings about it.

  • RepublicanStones

    Off topic, but seeing it’s Sunday, so for any of you interested here’s the debate between Blair and Git Hitchens which occurred on friday. It’s in several parts not sure if this link is chronological.

    http://bit.ly/guVdGQ

  • John East Belfast

    Ulster is a regional identity of Ireland not of the UK. In the Royal Standard it is the Harp not the Red Hand that makes up the fourth and equal quadrant.

    Any understanding of the Union and the whole basis of the unionist case is the Union between the people of these Isles that was sadly torn apart 90 years ago.

    Is Nelson McCausland saying that he has no affiliation with institutions like the “Church of Ireland”, the “Presbyeterian Church in ireland” the “Methodist Church in Ireland” – or what even about the “Grand Lodge of Irealnd” – all of these institutions have Irish symbolism at their core – I suppose St Patrick means nothing to Nelson either ?

    Or what about the Royal Irish Regiment with its Gaelic battle cry and shamrocks and the Irish Guards likewise. Not to mention the “Harp and Crown” RUC and UDR before them.

    Or what about the Irish Football Association with its Celtic Cross and where it derives al lot of its arguments in the eligibility row that it is also (indeed the original) football body on this island.

    We derive our British citisenship by being born in Northern Ireland – not despite it. You cant say I am British in Northern Ireland just because I am.

    By the very nature of its geographical location in Northern Ireland it is absurd that unionism would deny its Irishness.

    I dont know about Nelson but I ceased being a Planter about 500 years ago and let’s face it our political allegiance now is more to do with what religion we were born into. Although my surname is Scottish none of us have to go too far back to find our Gaelic ancestory. My mother’s maiden name was Pelan and my grandmother on my father side was a Joyce.

    Therefore I am Irish and British and proud – and I have no need or desire to contort the facts to deny the former.

    Well this is just another of the clear differences between UUP and DUP thinking then and demonstrates that despite all of Robinsons’ “progressive” words that the DUP will never be able to broaden and maximise the electoral base of the Union voting public.

    This is not Unionism bit a form of “Ulster Nationalism” using unionism to separate itself from the rest of the island as opposed to trying to unite part of the island with GB.

    It is the kind of thinking the early Planters would have had and has no place in their descendants 500 years later with al the history, integration and experience behind them not least of which was the Act of The Union.

  • John,
    The rather condescending nonsense continues. The fundamental problem is your assertion that the Ulster identity is a regional identity of Ireland rather than the UK. That is simply not a position agreed to be many unionists. Just because you keep peddling what is far from an accepted fact (outside nationalist circles) does not make it a fact.

    It is far from absurd for unionists to deny their Irishness. The land mass is indeed called Ireland. However, you fall into the trap of one land mass: one group. Alias is actually the best at the explanation so I will steal hies: there is a British nationality and an Irish nationality on the landmass of Ireland. You may regard yourself as part of both: that is fine. However, others do not and that is not absurd; is not worth of your ridicule it is an irrelevance. It is not threatening you at all.

    Moving on by your logic Canadians should regard themselves as North Americans. That may be a geographical fact but it is not the primary means by which they self identify. They may even reject being Canadians if they are from Quebec but that is a separate issue.

    I worked briefly in the Outer Hebrides when I was a student and it was interesting that many of the islanders did not regard themselves as Scottish (much to the chagrin of Scots nats from Glasgow who were there). Their position was not a nonsense.

    Your last paragraphs betray what I suspect are your true motivations: bashing the DUP. The fact that you reduce culture to being a stick to fight intra unionist rivalries is actually rather pathetic.

    Incidentally you still have not explained nor apologised for your slur that I do not get the Union bit in unionist. You are in danger of suggesting that your identity is the correct one for a unionist and any other one is at best odd, most likely inexplicable and potentially simply wrong.

  • John,
    Forgot to add re the Canadian thing. The reverse is also true. Americans living in Hawaii are not remotely the less Americans and most probably do not self identify as Pacific islanders.

    Culture and identity is much more complex than you are pretending and it is largely an individual thing. To suggest otherwise or to ridicule or pretend a lack of understanding of another’s culture simply because you disagree is actually highly intolerant.

  • anonymous,
    You show how little you understand Presbyterians (or Protestants). Due to the priesthood of all believers we are accountable to God ourselves and have no mediator other than Christ. As such I must read the scriptures and decide for myself the truth. I may listen to others like ministers but I am accountable for my soul to God and cannot hide behind anyone (apart from the blood of Jesus). as such my analysis of what God wants is the only open to me (after study, prayer etc.). Hence, in a way evangelical fundamentalist Protestants are the original post modernists.

    I have no need of or benefit from a priest of mediator. Indeed anyone who presented him or herself as such would by definition by ante-Christ (rather than anti Christ).

  • lamhdearg

    Im not irish.

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    My father happened to be a protestant, unionist and also a member of the GAA, his culture was irish, his identity british.
    Minister McCausland cannot deny the fact that he is in fact irish, nor can i deny the fact he is British. The same for turgon, you may not agree with that position but it is a fact that you are irish and id argue more irish than you would like to admit culturally.

    ill leave a quote from my dad about minister mccausland
    ‘id call him a political dinosaur but he denies dinosaurs ever existed’

  • lamhdearg

    Then no one born in the British isles can say they are not British.
    http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/…/britishisles.htm – Cached – Similar
    Someone should tell the Irish.

  • John East Belfast

    Turgon

    I think you need to define better what this British Ulster identity is.
    What are its origins, who are the participants and where does it fit into British and Irish history.

    I have laid out which I feel is a pretty logical case for Irish Unionism which post partition has understandably translated into Ulster/Northern Irish Unionism.

    I have illustrated that shared Irish symbols – St Patrick, Celtic Cross, Harp, Shamrock and elements of the Gaelic language are at the heart and foundation of northern unionist institutions – church, military, loyal orders and even the national football team. The Harp is an equal part of the British Royal familiy standard putting Ireland not Ulster at the heart of the Kingdom

    I have also highlighted the fact that the idea of Britishness itself derives from the Union of the people of England, Scotland, Wales and originally Ireland and hence it is totally logical that a British citisen sees him/her self within that context. A US citisen in Hawai see themselves and US and part of the 50th State at the same time – unless they are from one of the other 49 and just residing there.

    I am an Irish unionist opposed to Separatism and Home Rule – and I see the plantation as simply adding to the mix of what constituted the Irish family living on this island.

    My view is the Union should never have been broken up and Ireland – north and south – would be a very much better place had it not. Indeed I have little doubt the UK would have benefited. The alternative is the madness of the last 90 years and the dead end to which it has undeniably brought us.
    Where a separate British Ulster mindset fits into all this is a mystery to me ?

    When unionists say they are not Irish not only are they denying their own birthright but they are effectively stating that they are usurpers living in a country not their own and stating that the only true Irish identity is the Catholic and Gaelic one.

    As I say just saying you arent Irish but British living in Ulster needs a bit more explanation than what you and Nelson are currently proposing. You can tell me what you arent but you havent told me what you really are.

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    i was saving this actual point for whenever someone asked me was i british, damn you lamhdearg.

    Its true, people born in Ireland are Irish, British and European..

    That doesnt mean they have to owe allegience to an english queen or parliament though 😉

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    John,
    Can i ask you to please stop making logical arguments, this is Northern Ireland, such things have no place here!!
    I need something to disagree with you on!

  • John East Belfast

    APU

    Well you can disagree with Turgon and Nelson if they ever beef out what it is they actually think they are rather than telling us what they arent !

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    something just made me chuckle, Nelson’s last post was 12.02am, Blogging on the sabbath!!!!!!

    for shame

  • lamhdearg

    John i am an ulsterman, a bit like a palestinian or a basque the fact there is no country named after us (ulster) people is irrelevant.

  • Framer

    The Two Nations Theory is of course the most subversive and hateful thing for nationalists, especially as it was reformulated by a Cork man, Brendan Clifford, in a series of Athol Street/BICO pamphlets from 1970 onwards.

    They broke left wing certainties on the rightness of republicanism and undermined the IRA campaign.

    Essentially they took the ‘Ireland is an island and therefore a nation’ dogma and broke it.

    The salt water theory of nationalism remains strong but never now goes unchallenged outside its Irish believers at least. Unfortunately they still constitute the vast majority of nationalists who substitute rage for argument, including most on this site.

    Clifford’s view, using Stalin’s definition as a guide was that the Ulster Protestants were definitely not part of the Irish nation. They were British, but conditionally so, and if the circumstances required it had all the makings of a separate nation on the island themselves.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    He has a very slow connexion. He is in the DUP after all.

  • PN

    If you asked a Canadian “What are you?”, he would say “Canadian.”

    If you asked him “So, are you North American?”, he would likely say “Well, yes.”

    If you ask McCausland what he is, he says “an Ulsterman.”

    If you asked him “So, are you Irish?” he says “No! How dare you?!”

    These two things are not the same. The real question, I think, is not ‘What is being an Ulsterman?”, it is “Why are you not Irish?”. To put it another way, why is it not enough to say ‘I am Irish, but my Ulster Protestant background is the important thing about me’?”

    I would like a good answer from someone, since it currently seems like it’s an elaborate attempt to prove we have nothing whatsoever to do with our neighbours; that we should take to our separate schools, music and language and do our best to ignore any ‘Irish’ culture as if it were a inherently alien and incomprehensible.

    I believe the Ulster Protestant culture is important and interesting precisely because it stands on the threshold of many different things, and has a complex identity and relationship to others. To make it a culture which cannot admit to elements of its identity and which pretends to be entirely alone is to damn it to a sort of endless drum-beating stagnation.

  • John,
    I am afraid I do not need to define this British Ulster identity. It is all around us. Very many unionists recognise it. You are simply being perverse if you claim not to see it.

    All the above from you is your idea of nationality. You feel the need to explain and rationalise it as above. That is fine. However, it is nothing more than your ideas. I adhere to very similar yet subtly different set of allegiances. Mine are not any more inherently accurate or inaccurate than yours.

    Indeed the whole concept of nationality etc. is a bit illogical and indeed a construct of more recent times. That does not make it all wrong but it does mean that in this case your view of a logical position is merely that: your view.

    I might suggest that you claiming to be a unionist opposed to Home Rule is utterly illogical. I very much doubt you were alive during the Home Rule issue and claiming your identity on the basis of an issue from a hundred years is not that logical. Drawing inspiration from it may be logical but it is all about feeling and emotions. As such for you it is logical to be opposed to Home Rule. For me it is a past and now dead issue and hence, not logical to base much of my identity on.

    You say I have not defined what I am but that is simply an untruth. Both myself and Nelson have suggested identities. Mine is an evangelical pretty fundamentalist Protestant, a husband, a father, a son, an Ulsterman, British etc. etc. All of those are completely valid. I suppose I could add Irish to it if I wished but I do not identify myself as Irish and so do not.

  • An Phoblacht Abu – now come on, that would make you a Pharisee!

  • anonymous

    [It’s my fault we’re on the uncomfortable ground of religious affiliations, so I’ll say that I’m an atheist with no religious upbringing and a mostly Catholic/part Protestant family background]

    Saying that you decide for yourself what the truth is is not the same as saying there is no truth, only your decision. Correct me if I am wrong about this, but you believe that there is objective truth in scripture (for example, that there is a Yahweh-like God, salvation and damnation exist, people can be saved by faith alone.) You respect the right of someone else to read the same scripture differently, and I am sure you also respect the right of other people to believe in Buddhism or Islam. That does not mean you think their opinions are correct where they differs from yours, does it?

    To bring us back to the original analogy, like everyone else here, you recognize the right of anyone in NI to call himself British, Irish, or both. I think you argue that whatever identity someone chooses to take is not just legally or ethically available to him, but actually equally descriptive of reality. I’m not really sure whether I agree or disagree with that, I’m just trying to make sure that all assumptions are examined

  • Nunoftheabove

    Fair play to Blair for agreeing to debate Hitchens on religion – he got his head handed to him for trying, though. Many have tried…

  • Nunoftheabove

    Nelson

    Fair play…but that was a very long time ago. I’m not sure what validaity you think any former nationalist ambition to ‘culturally absorb’ has currently ? Who or what would be being absorbed and to what end exactly ?

    Also, how different is your Britishness from, say, a native of Leeds, or Southend, or Dundee, or would you say that those cultures are, apporoximately, as similar to one another in some ways as they are different in others ?

    Thanks

  • John East Belfast

    NOTA

    the difference is the Leeds and Dundee guy wouod also say they are English and Scottish but Nelson would only say he is British. He might say he is British Ulster – but the legitimacy of that terms has not been defined,

    The obvious answer to your question of course is that the only difference is that our Britishness derives from our Northern Irishness which itself derives its legitimacy from Ireland’s original Union with GB,

    This British Ulster stuff is geographocally and politically inaccurate and has no basis in history.

  • Nunoftheabove

    John East Belfast

    The first part of your answer’s fair enough, I do think though that nationality is only one aspect of culture and identity. One of my issues with NMcC’s approach is he routinely attempts to weld one aspect of identity, artificially and for entirely political purposes, to others.

  • cavanman

    The Ulster Protestant identity also bleeds into the other parts of Ulster that you may consider not “true Ulster” but have an provincial identity within the republic which is all it’s own. Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan are like the rump that seems to irritate those when Ulster is questioned as a valid shorthand for Northern Ireland. I’m not going to argue the fact since Ulster has been realistically solidified as the de facto term. But it is wobbly territory to make definitive statements when you look at an Ulster Protestant living in the Republic happily with loyalty to the Republic’s institutions. Muddy the already swirling waters

  • Nelson McCausland

    It would be impossible to respond to all of the errors and misunderstandings in the comments from some of the contributors. Time would prevent that. Nevertheless I have found this thread very interesting in that it shows the sort of ideas that some people have on such issues. I have therefore decided to run a series of posts on the theme ‘Culture Matters’ on my own blog ‘Nelson’s View’ http://theministerspen.blogspot.com exploring aspects of culture and identity in Ulster.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Nelson

    Thanks for the link.

    When you say that Irish nationalism and Irish republicanism is intolerant of those cultural traditions, are you referrring only or mainly to Orangeism ?

    If you are making a point that that alleged intolerance is broader than that then for me you appear to be interpreting their advocacy for ‘their’ culture to be an attack on yours or an intolerance of it and projecting that accusation of intolerance rather than welcoming culture diversity as a good thing as a matter of principle. That loyalist Paisleyite parochial zero sum game demagogy is or should be something which the DUP puts very firmly behind it once and for all. After all, it’s ultimately based on scapegoating, vicious, rabble-rousing sectarianism and pure political opportunism. The tiny lumpen TUV and BNP political support bases are both very responsive to it.

  • john

    I have read through a number of the posts and certainly agree that someone from Northern Ireland can decide what nationality they are whether that is British or Irish but to try and pretend you have no Irish connection at all is laughable especially if your ancsestors arrived here hundreds of years ago. America was mentioned earlier and is the perfect example as in theory the only ‘true” American is the native american but the reality is all the German Americans, Irish Americans, English Americans etc are all proud Americans.
    If all the migrants to the UK followed Nelsons example and declared themselves Chinese, Indian, Polish etc for the next 400 years then it wouldnt be long before British people were in the minority in Britain – that obviously wont happen because people just as in America when they arrive in a new country they take on the cultures and traditions of that country to a varying degree. I cant imagine too many young people in Britain whose parents immigrated from India for example completely denying they are British if thats where they were born they would class themselves as British, British Indian or British Asian. So if everyone else in the world can do it why is it so difficult for Nelson and co.

  • Nunoftheabove

    RepublicanStones

    Thanks, caught it. Blair was brave enough to go into bat on religion with Hitchens but was gubbed. How come you refer to Hitch as a git, are you religious by inclination and or are you pro-Saddam/pro-Taliban ?

  • Nunoftheabove

    John East Belfast

    I’m not quite sure you’re right about the distinction between the UUP and DUP on this although in some ways I hope we’re both wrong about that.

    I personally see the UUP as an irrelevance now – it has no idea what it’s about, scratching around for inspiration, no leadership, not even a worthwhile leader, resolutely undiverse; doesn’t seem quite sure whether to try and outflank the DUP to the right or to make – for them – a big bold leap to the centre, isn’t quite sure whether to redefine unionism in more pluralist, indeed materialist terms or to stick with cretinous flag-waving and claiming that more and more non-protestants are ‘ok with our brand of unionism’. Their pseudo-integrationist flirtation with the Tories benefitted them none and appears not have taught them anything either.

    I personally couldn’t care less if they evaporated entirely today or tomorrow – given their unlovely history it would be something of a deliverance for this state – but insofar as there needs to be a rivalry within unionism I’m not sure I wouldn’t prefer the DUP to make the running on this issue. The DUPes aren’t right about much (I literally broke the habit of literally a lifetime recently be agreeing with Robbo on soemthing – education) but isn’t afraid to take bold steps and its grass roots prefer that than the empty, banal, tuppence halfpenny moribundity it finds within the UUP.

    I think that Nelson is way more wrong about this issue than he’s right but I figure in any case that he’s untypical of the less reactionary wing of the DUP (many of whom view Nelson’s take on identity and culture as amusing and/or embarassing) but it’s not beyond them to rise above this tired tweedle-dee tweedle-dum parochialism.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Im sure our Minister for “Culture and Sport” will be as upset as I am that about 25% of the competing teams in the 2012 Olympics have registered for training facilities……but none of the 51 registered to train in Norn Iron.
    Eamonn McCartan Head of the Sports Council said “Northern Irelands image is the problem”. Well perhaps Olympic cyclists training for games opening at the end of July dont want to cycle past the Ardoyne shops in mid July to watch the annual riot. Or perhaps training for the Olympic marathon in and around Shaws Bridge (excellent facilities there) would be curtailed by large numbers of men with bowler hats.
    Indeed I see no reason why Orange “culture” could not be accomodated in the Opening Ceremony along with Morris Dancing.
    All is not lost……one Olympic team held a recent seminar for potential athletes in Newcastle, County Down last month.
    It was…..the Irish team.

  • Doire

    Guys. Whatever you call yourselves, whatever church you go to, whatever language you speak, you are all from the same place. Face it – the rest of Britain isn’t that bothered about northern Ireland, and neither is the republic. If the 6 counties/ulster/the north of Ireland is going to get out of the recession, become fair and shake off the cobwebs of violence and paramilitaries you are going to have to agree on something and stop arguing. This fanatical loyalism/nationalism is getting old now. As an English republican, raised as a protestant and confirmed as a catholic, I find it really frustrating. Both sides have one thing in common which they don’t share with either the rest of Ireland or the rest of Britain. We care about the north. So if northern Ireland is going to have a bright future then we all need to work TOGETHER to acheive it. Because no one else will and it’s making us look stupid.