English Nationalism and its identity issues…

face, faces, dialog

You think we are bad with identity politics until you look across the water at England. The Daily Express managed the impressive task of simultaneously criticising migrants and congratulating them on the same page. You don’t like to overshadow Emma Raducanu’s magnificent achievement with discussion around her heritage. But it is astonishing how quickly people can switch from ‘immigrants out’ to embracing new ‘British’ stars. We have been here before. When Andy Murray loses he is Scottish. When he wins …

Read more…

What Northern Ireland Means To Me…

trees, avenue, road

I’ve always been of the view that every birthday is worth a celebration, even if it’s simply to remind people you still exist. But of course marking the centenary of Northern Ireland was always going to tricky. In the Belfast Telegraph, Sam McBride laments the lost opportunity to use the anniversary to find common ground between Unionists and Nationalists, and highlights the fact that recognition of the centenary has been underwhelming to say the least. In the ever present ‘crisis’ …

Read more…

What’s in a name #3…

I was delighted to read, from afar, that the DUP MP for East Londonderry Gregory Campbell deigns that the border in Ireland is not “a threat to anyone who feels Irish on this part of the island.”. I’m sorry, but “feels Irish”? Am I naïve in thinking we had moved on in “Our Wee Country” since 1998? Or does this typify a mindset that refuses to accept geographical reality? There is a Big Island called Britain, and there is a …

Read more…

For the sake of future generations, we simply cannot go on like this…

I remember back in 1984 being on holiday on a Greek island and wasting an evening drinking largely on my own while a friend who hailed from the loyalist part of the Donegall Road, spent hours trying to convince a friendly English couple that he was British not Irish. After around two hours of the best persuasive arguments he could muster, the woman said, ‘But you’re Irish!’ I learned a couple of lessons that evening, one was not to waste …

Read more…

Survey evidence shows unionists and nationalists supporting power sharing at home and waiting on developments outside

Just under 60% of Catholics in Northern Ireland now categorise themselves as nationalist compared with 50% two years ago. 67% of Protestants now classified themselves as unionist compared with 55% in 2018. After the past year of political trauma the big surprise in the NI Life and Times Survey for 2019 is not that there has been a hardening of political allegiances but that this has failed to polarise opinion for their finally incompatible causes. The remarkable fact is that …

Read more…

Identity is more than a passport

Chris Eisenstadt is a dual national who has lived in Northern Ireland since he was 11. Recently, with the success of the English cricket team, there has been a “debate” about what it means to be English. The captain of the team, having been born in Ireland, has been praised and criticised for his decision to take to the field (is it a field? My cricket knowledge is rubbish. I’d never pass the Tebbit test) for England. I don’t know, …

Read more…

The Citizenship Rights of the Good Friday Agreement – Real or Imagined?

The Belfast Good Friday Agreement is widely championed as a success. Revered as a model of peace, it’s representative to many as a demonstration of the power of collaboration and compromise. And in a lot of ways, this is all true – “decommissioning”, the North South institutions, and power sharing have all changed the very fabric of Northern Ireland for the better. However, considering the lack of codification, the St. Andrews amendments and the current stalemate at Stormont, did we …

Read more…

Future Ireland / Children of the Ceasefire / 1

This is one of three winning articles for the Future Ireland series. The articles were submitted together – by three friends who met at college – a northern Catholic, a east Belfast Protestant, and a Dublin man. We liked the nuanced content of the pieces, the sense of identities in flux, and the fact that each tried to understand the perspectives of the others. Also how being children of the ceasefires weaves throughout their pieces. By Matthew Redmond – hailing …

Read more…

Future Ireland / Children of the Ceasefire / 2

This is one of three winning articles for the Future Ireland series. The articles were submitted together – by three friends who met at college – a northern Catholic, a east Belfast Protestant, and a Dublin man. We liked the nuanced content of the pieces, the sense of identities in flux, and the fact that each tried to understand the perspectives of the others. Also how being children of the ceasefires weaves throughout their pieces. By Seanín Little Growing up …

Read more…

Future Ireland / Children of the Ceasefire / 3

This is one of three winning articles for the Future Ireland series. The articles were submitted together – by three friends who met at college – a northern Catholic, a east Belfast Protestant, and a Dublin man. We liked the nuanced content of the pieces, the sense of identities in flux, and the fact that each tried to understand the perspectives of the others. Also how being children of the ceasefires weaves throughout their pieces. By William Clarence – from …

Read more…

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…