Is Your Child Green or Orange?

Children in Northern Ireland are continuing to be shoe-horned into Orange and Green identities, by the very programme set up to break down divisions. This article draws on a recent FOI request to the NI Executive, to show how children participating in ‘Together: Building a United Community’ (TBUC) Camps, ended up being designated as one community background or the other. A factor which surely makes it more difficult to break out of the cycle of polarisation in Northern Ireland, and which … Read more

Future Ireland / Irish Unification: An Evangelical View

The Unification Agenda At the time of writing, questions about unification are more topical than ever. Brexit has polarised our population, and this in its turn has added significant impetus to the unity debate. Supporters of unification have rightly read this as an opportunity, and proposals for border polls abound. Emotions across the population run high, with most people seeming to sit on either extreme of a continuum that runs between elation and dread. So how do we pick our … Read more

The end of the world

Sea cliffs

In the 19th century national identity in Europe was more deeply entwined with religion than it is today. Witness the creation of Belgium in 1831 from the remains of the Spanish Netherlands, when formerly Hapsburg areas seceded from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands to form a Catholic-majority, multilingual state with a French-speaking aristocracy. In the 20th century the focus of national identity shifted: the same Belgian state is now hoplessly riven between French- and Dutch-speakers, regardless of religion. The … Read more

Two “Communities” demographics: Don’t mention the Others

Roy Fisher does a deep dive into the census data, showing how it is almost impossible to opt out of the two communities model… “When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, ‘Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?’” – from The Wit and Wisdom of Quentin Crisp (1984) When the quotation above … Read more

Take Back Control – of our Ulster-Scots histories

A friend of mine was sacked from the civil service for saying that Ulster-Scots was a made up language. Unfortunately he said it in the newspaper. But lots of us have said it in private, right? LOLed at the dafties whilst railing against the DUP. Or for unionists, awkwardly pushed it forward as a political issue. I’ve been thinking recently about how radical the Scottish legacy in Northern Ireland is. And how uncomfortably this sits beside our understandings of Ulster-Scots … Read more

A Question of Identity

The View presenter Mark Carruthers has taken a look into the complexities of identity in Northern Ireland. In his 30 minute documentary for Radio Ulster he speaks with academics, politicians and members of the clergy about their experiences with identity and what makes up a Northern Irish identity. As the radio programme starts, Carruthers points out the difficulties that people have in being able to actually pin point what actually makes up Northern Irishness or does such an identity even … Read more

British or Irish. When it comes to identity we are all mongrels…

We are all mongrels, to a greater or lesser degree. British-Irish-Northern Irish crossbreeds. Not to mention the fact that if we did ancestry DNA tests we’d probably be 20% African. We live in a divided society and in a contested state. So to hear Foster and O’Neill playing Punch and Judy at the Tory party conference this week was frustrating. ‘Northern Ireland is British’, ‘Oh no it’s not’. etc. etc. I was studying and teaching Northern Irish politics in University … Read more

“Closing Stormont has only bound the [Ulster] Scots and [Ulster] English more tightly together…”

My old mucker, Andrew Breitbart once said “politics is downstream from culture.” Andrew was a lot smarter in that regard than many of his liberal critics. It’s something Newton Emerson explores in today’s Irish Times re Northern Ireland’s three tribes: If it seems fanciful to speak of an English/Scottish unionist divide in the 21st century, consider the DUP’s promotion since the Good Friday agreement of “Ulster-Scots culture” and how the denizens of English Street laugh at that openly. Yet the … Read more

How we’ve reduced our identity to a Google Maps search

A Queen’s University student discovered some alarming home truths when he spent months investigating our addiction to the use of the blanket terms Protestant and Roman Catholic as a catch-all to describe the population of Northern Ireland. Roy Fisher, a print-maker and market trader who carried out the research for his Masters thesis, found that an increasing minority of employees who describe themselves as being of neither religion are still determined as being of one of those faiths due to Equality Legislation. … Read more

Ireland – An island of reluctant West Brits and enthusiastic East Yanks?

When the very mention of “British” axiomatically throws up the spectre of the Black and Tans or Charles Trevelyn, it’s natural that any positive material contribution to Ireland made by Britain is ignored or lost to amnesia. I’m Irish, the “other Irish” – an Irishman with an Irishness that is conjoined to a Britishness. My sense of British national pride is weakened by historical wrongs as much as any American’s patriotism is reduced by the awful wrongs visited upon native … Read more

Edward Carson, ‘No one on earth is so clearly the “typical Irishman”‘

Edward Carson rose in the Lords on December 3 1929 and made a number of points about the Irish Free State and the Privy Council, the legal forum the young Irish state was seeking to do away with. Interestingly, he called the Anglo-Irish Treaty the “Treaty of surrender and betrayal”.  On the matter of his identity, he said: “I am very proud as an Irishman to be a member of the British Empire.” He also said: “I was born and … Read more

Unionism’s anglophobia

The slogan used to be ‘Brit’s Out’. It marked a gross misunderstanding of the people of Northern Ireland. As Conor Cruise O’Brien wrote of the Easter Rising: “Irish-Ireland wrote and talked as if it assumed that the battle would be over once Dublin with its garrison of dentists’ wives had surrendered.” The “British” of Northerm Ireland are the several hundred thousand people loyal to the Crown, not the Crown forces. While the “Brits Out” slogan is no longer daubed, the … Read more

Catholic, Erin and virtue. Protestant, Saxon and guilt.*

    Watch this video, it punched me in the sternum – ‘momondo – The DNA Journey’: We divide people in two. Native or immigrant. Authentic or blow-in. We want certainty, especially in Northern Ireland – Protestant or Catholic, us or them. Catholic is Erin and virtue. Protestant is Saxon and guilt (and “imperialistic blood-suckers” as southern Protestant Hubert Butler said). It’s not unique to Northern Ireland, but is a universal condition. Mistrust of “the other” is typeset into man’s … Read more

Ian Paisley – “We are Irish!”

    Of the DUP membership, 1.4% self-identify as Irish. Yet the founder of the DUP was 100% Irish. This is not speculation or conjecture or troublemaking, this is a statement of fact based upon unequivocal and repeated testimony from Ian Paisley. Ian paisley wrote in 2012 on the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant: “Edward Carson was a life-long Irishman, as well as being a life-long unionist, and that made all the difference… On this 28th day … Read more

St Patrick’s Day a time to reflect on an openness that, at its best, Englishness encourages

For St Patrick’s Day Mark Perryman outlines the meaning of the forthcoming Easter Rising Centenary for models of Britishness. St Patrick’s Day across England has always been more of a party than our own St George’s Day. Down the local, one of the best night outs of the year, a non-stop evening drenched in all things Irish. A celebration of Ireland’s freedom, which can never be entirely separated from its place in English, and British, history either. But the framing … Read more

Protestant Identity, Vulnerability and Bonfires.

Chris Jenkins writes for us about his experiences touring some bonfires last summer…. The cameraman runs up towards the bonfire. The wooden pallets tower over him. Teenagers begin to light the colossal structure with flaming torches. “He’s gone too close”, I think straight away. The fire started to move quickly, and the young men lighting it stayed a step ahead, using their torches to light the petrol in the middle of the wooden structure. One of the teenagers who we … Read more

How Would Rory McIlroy Vote?  And why that’s important.

Predicated as it is on avarice and greed and standing as a monument to the necessity for mandatory wealth re-distribution, the most useless supplement of the year reappeared last week. The Sunday Times Rich List likes to rank all the people in the country who have more money than you. And expects you to pay for the privilege of reading about them. Not surprisingly, a certain young County Down sports celebrity –always keen to reassert his affinity with his place … Read more

Who cares about Voting and Identity? Nicholas Whyte explains the stats … #ImagineBelfast15 (updated with charts)

Nicholas Whyte spoke at a lunchtime event being run under the umbrella of Imagine!2015 The Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics in the Ulster University’s Belfast campus: Who cares about Voting and Identity. You can listen back to his half hour presentation and follow along with the slides below. He broke down census results for national identity and looked at the most British / Irish / Northern Irish / Other wards and constituencies. He asks which parties are engaging with … Read more

Who stands for an Irishness that includes the British of Northern Ireland?

Heard about the one about the Catholic priest who watched the Twelfth and thought it wasn’t Protestant enough? Here’s the News Letter reporting on Fr Martin Magill’s piece in the Irish News… “One of the Orangemen I met told me he had carried a Bible in previous years but didn’t this year because he was afraid it would get wet. For me, this was a parable of what is missing in the Twelfth — people living by the Word of … Read more

Friday thread: Flags make a difference to how we think and feel…

Via Peter Curran with a h/t to Phil Mac Giolla Bhain. Fascinating piece of quick and dirty research on the Scottish Sunday Politics Show regarding the effect of flag displays during a detailed online questionnaire from last week… It’s well worth watching the whole way through, but the findings themselves are at the beginning and are interesting enough on their own. They provide, I suspect some very important cues for a very complex soup of identities in modern Britain. Not … Read more