Focus on a century of constitutional division diminishes those on the margins of our complex social history…

SDLP leader, Colin Eastwood MP is as entitled to express an opinion as any other politician. However, whether his passionate, if not petulant assertion, that the use of Seamus Heaney’s portrait, by an admittedly lazy binary view of culture by the NIO when launching the NI Centenary, was down to cynicism is very much open to debate. In reality such an assertion of motive is very hard to prove or disprove; but is perhaps indicative of no great enthusiasm for …

Read more…Focus on a century of constitutional division diminishes those on the margins of our complex social history…

The Derry Muddle has gone away……… or has it?

“I always felt that this Centenary would be the most contentious one.” DCSDC Nationalist Councillor, 2020   An individual who identifies as Irish Nationalist or Irish Republican is unlikely to view the establishment of Northern Ireland as a cause for celebration. The clue is in their designated allegiance. What has been disappointing and reflected in the words of the SDLP Councillor above, are the polemical attitudes of nationalist and republican representatives in their approach to an important milestone in the …

Read more…The Derry Muddle has gone away……… or has it?

Why Unionists are asking “aye, but who can we vote for (and not against)?”

This question crops up more and more within the broad pro-Union constituency. It is shaped by disillusionment and frustration with representatives entrusted with the stewardship of sustaining Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom. The view is that political unionism is becoming a greater threat to the Union than those who have for years tried to bomb it out of existence or build enough political strength to deliver their aspiration for merging Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. Unionist …

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“Build a future; only then can you revisit the past without being held captive by the past…”

 “The most intriguing part of Irish history for me is the period of Grattan’s parliament…. the first emergence of the Renaissance Movement in this island amongst the non-conformists. They wanted to get freedom for everybody who was advancing, for the Roman Catholic community, the slowly emerging merchant class……. fighting not just for their own rights but for everyone’s. Then the Catholics in the South organised on their own, ultimately dividing the community….. realistically leading to partition…… I blame the South …

Read more…“Build a future; only then can you revisit the past without being held captive by the past…”

Derry City and Strabane District Council reneges on its earlier promise to “give recognition to diverse narratives…”

Start out wrong, fail to address and you will end up in the same place. Is the current acrimony within Derry City and Strabane District Council a case in point as the Derry Model muddles its way towards the Equality Commission? The YouTube recording of its meeting on Thursday November 26, does not make for comfortable viewing. At the previous ‘zoom’ meeting, the following proposal which when tabled was not complete in wording before Councillors rushed to voice their support, …

Read more…Derry City and Strabane District Council reneges on its earlier promise to “give recognition to diverse narratives…”

Renewing trust, confidence and motivation to make Northern Ireland a home for all

The meeting took place in Portrush. In addition to local members, it was attended by the recently elected UUP party leader. In the course of a short speech which seemed unrehearsed and lacked emphasis on any key messaging, he said: “Unionism is always at its best when it has something to fight against.” Like ‘United We Stand ‘it maybe works as a rallying cry but, not unusual within unionist groupings, reveals a limiting view of any vision or hope for …

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“Where do you think Unionism is going?”

Currently unable to meet socially for coffee, conversations now take place on zoom or on the phone. Once we have shared our frustrations about Manchester United, recalled our memories of school days, in his case under the guidance of the Christian brothers and in mine, the local grammar school for a mainly unionist intake, we inevitably gravitate to politics. The question put to me was more challenging than John realised and is one unionists need to ask of themselves: ‘Where …

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Does Biden’s nostalgic Irish nationalism and blind-spot run against the Shared Island initiative?

“What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow Out of this stony rubbish? -TS Eliot Beyond the reactions of some, including Sir Iain Duncan-Smith MP and John Redwood MP, both of whom seem to have an unbridled capacity to straddle conviction and irrational sabre-rattling, the stance which the President-elect and fellow Democrats like Nancy Pelosi opted for on Brexit negotiations prior to the Presidential election, hardly reflects a nuanced understanding or respectful concern for the complexity of the issues …

Read more…Does Biden’s nostalgic Irish nationalism and blind-spot run against the Shared Island initiative?

How the “Derry Model” has become something of a muddle…

In October 2002, Bishop Kenneth Good, Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, spoke of Unionist ‘alienation and insecurity’ and pointed to a community feeling frozen out. Young people from a Unionist background regarded the ‘West bank’ as a ‘no-go area’. Parents and older family members, drawing on experiences of violence, destruction of businesses and the murder of friends and relatives, no longer felt any close association with a home city lacking inclusivity and respect for diversity. Many of …

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Our two versions of history arise from what we leave out as much as what we leave in…

On October 22 in a webinar hosted by Trinity Long Room, Dublin, marking the launch of the digitalisation of the 1641 Depositions from victims of the violent events in Ireland at the time, former law academic and President of the Republic of Ireland, Mary McAleese stated that during her school days she had never been taught about 1641 and had never heard the history appertaining until she was in her 40s. The remark, not in any way surprising, prompted memories …

Read more…Our two versions of history arise from what we leave out as much as what we leave in…

Unionism’s journey into the future should be based on evidence, conviviality and conviction

Not renowned for public discourse on internal thinking or admitting to failings, it is a positive development that both Peter Robinson, former First Minister and key strategist within the DUP and Reverend Mervyn Gibson, Leader of the Orange Order are hinting at a need for fresh thinking within Unionism on the part of Peter Robinson and Orangeism in the case of Reverend Gibson. Both however are tentative in their critique, especially so in the case of the Orange leader. He …

Read more…Unionism’s journey into the future should be based on evidence, conviviality and conviction

If Unionism is going to defend the Union it needs to firmly separate church and state

Covid restrictions have drawbacks but afford time to clear out old materials stored for much-delayed future use. Amongst old photographs, marked electoral registers indicative of older practices – or are they – newspaper cuttings, reports and publications by various parties and individuals, I come across fading copies of the Protestant Telegraph Vol 11 from the mid-1970s: ‘THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE’ is writ large under the title. One copy from 1976 perused and the tone and tenor of the …

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Why we should not give ourselves easy excuses not to examine the first 100 years of Northern Ireland…

The Irish News on the 13th October published the names of the members of the NI Centenary Forum and reported that Sinn Fein and SDLP politicians, unlike their counterparts from the DUP, UUP and Alliance parties, declined an invitation to join. In addition, the report speculates that academics invited to serve on the Centenary Historical Advisory Committee, headed by Lord Paul Bew, declined the invitation due to ‘concerns that plans would not reflect the full story of partition.’ Apart from …

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Time for the UK and the EU, with Dublin’s new government’s encouragement, to agree a #Brexit deal

In Ireland and the EU post Brexit, former senior Irish diplomat, advocate for IREXIT and member of the Irish Talks Team at Stormont in 1998, Dr Ray Bassett, cites the ‘weaponizing’ of the border as pivotal to producing an ideological tug – o’–war throughout Brexit. Politics took priority over trade talks which could have resolved the issue of the border at an earlier stage. Other issues took precedence and the political geography of Ireland proved useful leverage. Also critical of …

Read more…Time for the UK and the EU, with Dublin’s new government’s encouragement, to agree a #Brexit deal

An opportunity for unionism to lead the celebration and expression of Northern Irish culture…

This is the second in a two-part series on how culture war is a mark of fake politics and not the least in our own backyard and is written from a pro-union perspective.  There is an opportunity for unionism to lead the celebration and expression of culture to a new level. To mirror others, who forfeit this to a discourse of power and mob force illiberal cultural fundamentalism, is to deny its common humanity and heritage and impose tribal identity. …

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When culture is exploited to create discord, “humour aids survival” (and pluralism)…

This is the first in a two-part series on how culture war is a mark of fake politics and not the least in our own backyard and is written from a pro-union perspective. Part two will appear next Friday. In an early version of ‘cancel culture’, the Andersontown News mocked Ulster-Scots as ‘a DIY language for Orangemen’. ‘Culture cringe’ Unionists accommodated the mockery. They did a linguistic and cultural heritage of all a disservice. Similarly, the disparaging remarks of Sammy …

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Engagement over a ‘shared island’ has to be honest, respectful, and built on a desire to improve relationships

Following the Brexit Referendum 2016, Civic nationalism emerged alongside seasoned advocates as, rights, Northern Ireland – a special case, and erratic enthusiasm for a Border Poll framed the parameters of public debate. Uncomfortable conversations on the long-term goal of the political unification of the two states which share geographical Ireland looked to build momentum. However, overtures towards Unionism have proceeded along the narrow terrain of a simple narrative that whilst much is wrong in Northern Ireland everything is going well …

Read more…Engagement over a ‘shared island’ has to be honest, respectful, and built on a desire to improve relationships