As I watcheda news report on the ABC network here in Australia, which showed jubilant supporters of Sinn Fein celebrating their electoral successes by singinga pro IRA ballad from the republican repertoire of anti-Britishness,I had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach whenI once lost control of my car descending an icy Glenshane Pass.
They were not singing about Dublin rents, medical care or homelessness.
The were exulting in their narrative of ‘armed struggle’ and their ‘fight for freedom’.
There are many people in Northern Ireland who do not wish to deny any group a historical perspective but the time is overdue when a body of independent historians could produce a single narrative, which would become part of the curriculum of all schools in both of the jurisdictions in Ireland.
George McNally, Port Melbourne, Australia
With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter and George McNally for the original posting of his letter
Ben Lowry’s piece on the future of unionism has provoked a number of responses (‘After a grim 2019, unionism faces big challenges in 2020s’, Dec 28).
I agree that the North of Ireland becoming a more secular place is a problem — the loss of a sense of identity in a community which was once united by the Ulster Covenant, a document which drew on a shared history linking us back to Scotland and untimely back to a common appreciation of the Bible, is a problem.
However, it’s also worth considering the nature of the political process over the past 20 years.
Consider the decade of what is considered as stable devolution even before the current crisis.
After a short honeymoon period of Chuckle Brothers Dr Paisley and McGuinness we had a crisis over the devolution of policing and justice with Sinn Fein preventing the executive meeting for months.
There have been numerous occasions when unionists could have said republican conduct made power sharing with them morally indefensible.
One thinks of Robert McCartney, Paul Quinn, Kevin McGuigan and the Florida gunrunning. Or even the fact that just weeks ago the PSNI confirmed that the PIRA Army Council continues to oversee the entire republican movement and that they remain weapons and departments —
something most unionist parties were tellingly quiet about.
Yet in spite of all that there isn’t a suggestion from either the DUP or UUP that they would ever give up on Stormont.
Why? Because as far as they are concerned a system which requires power sharing with the PIRA’s political proxies — whose goal is to show that the North of Ireland is a failed political entity — is as good as it gets.
That being the case unionism will continue to be seen as the ‘problem’ when it comes to any political crisis republicans choose to engineer.
A younger generation which has grown up in a Northern Ireland where flying the flag of the United Kingdom is seen as at best as impolite and at worse a deliberate act of provocation rather than something they identify with will continue, in greater numbers, to vote for parties which are agnostic on the Union.
Certainly no one now would claim, as both the UUP and DUP have in the relatively recent past, that the Union is ‘stronger than ever’.
With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter and Samuel Morrison, Traditional Unionist, Dromore, Co Down. For the original posting.
Secretary of State forthe North of Ireland Julian Smith at Stormont in Belfast for talks on December 19.
It appears that the secretary of state is pressurising the unionist political parties into accepting some form of Irish language act (ILA) to return devolved government.
The DUP, early in 2018 signalled that they would accept a ILA and it was possible to conclude from a BBC report on Thursday night that the UUP might too. But the UUP said yesterday that they opposed such an act.
Unionists have every right to be fearful of one.
Professor John Wilson Foster and Dr James Dingley (see links below) have already on these pages warned of the cultural disadvantages that an ILA will create for unionists.
I am horrified about the potential such an act has for further marginalising the unionist community.
If an ILA is accompanied by an Irish language commissioner’s office (ILCO), the potential for expanding the language into different employment sectors is exponential.
An ILCO will function to the detriment of the non-speaking Irish communities in the same way as other official offices have disadvantaged the unionist community.
The ILCO and the corresponding NI government department that will oversee it will be populated by fluent Irish speakers.
A new commission might be able to impose (with the support of the courts) legal obligations on the public sector and on larger employers within the private sector.
These obligations will have attached to them enormous costs and employers will have to embrace Irish speaking abilities into their employment criteria.
Non-Irish speakers could ultimately be legally discriminated against when seeking employment in schools, universities, local government offices, the civil service, the courts, etc.
The likelihood is that an Irish commissioner will be able to continually redefine his / her remit, increasing the powers of the commission into areas not originally envisaged.
An ILA will marginalise and increasingly marginalised academically under-achieving Protestant community in the workplace.
Children currently working their way through Irish medium schools will be automatically advantaged by an ILA. Sinn Fein are obsessed about an act for the cultural and employment benefits it will bring to the nationalist community.
Politicians who are concerned about marginalisation of Protestants and unionists must do everything in their power to resist this act.
With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter and Dr Edward Cooke, Netownabbey for the original story
Let me start by saying thatI ama unionist and consider myself to be Northern Irish.
SecondarilyIconsidermyselfto be part of the British family but alsoIhaveIrishinme.
I have to say that I feel totally let down by my unionist politicians. They have lost sight of what is important to the general public. Jobs, Public services, the health service, our infrastructure, the list could go on and on but all they can harp on about is Brexit, our Union, our Britishness.
Our being part of the UK will be answered when we get round to a border poll.
Does the DUP and the UUP not realise that the best way to ensure we stay part of the UK is to make Northern Ireland a success? Make people happy, make them content.
I live in a country that has two sets of people, Northern Irish and Irish. We need to recognise each other.
So I believe we should have an Irish language act. For too long we have lived in a separatist society. It starts in our schools and I am sad to say is greatly influenced by our religious organisations.
To start to implement an Irish language act we need to have a new education act.
All schools should be amalgamated with religious organisations not having any input. Where you go to school should be decided by what ward you live in, which would force people to mix.
From primary one until primary three our children should be taught basic skills English, maths, reading, writing and spelling. At the start of primary four it would be compulsory for our children to start learning a second language but the language they choose would be by choice. They would have a choice of French, German, Spanish or Irish thus implementing Irish into our curriculum.
I couldn’t care less if every road and street sign is both in English and Irish. The only problem I might have is if there were jobs that required an Irish language qualification.
It’s time for our politicians to actually earn their money. Get off their backsides and start running this great place. Whether it is Northern Ireland for you or the North of Ireland. Whether we remain part of the UK or become a united Ireland will be answered in a border poll.
I will respect the result, even if it not the result I wished for because I believe in democracy. As Mary Lou said 50% plus one is democracy. Maybe Sinn Fein should respect it, as should unionists.
John Lindsay, Cookstown.
With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter for the original story
Well done to Nigel Dodds, for his constructive approach to unionist unity
I congratulate Nigel Dodds MP for the way he firstly, handled the debate regarding the wrongful threat to Ulster Unionist Party staff and his constructive manner on a united strategy between the DUP and UUP.
I also congratulate the Ulster Unionists on their willingness to set aside old memories to make it possible for two unionists to try and get elected.
I must say I was rattled at the outset by some of Nigel Dodds’s silly colleagues jumping in with wisecracks and scorn provocative enough to raise anger and wreck an essential project.
Such people would do well having a muzzle fitted during a crisis.
David Barbour, former UUP councillor, Coleraine
With many thanks to the: Belfast Newsletter for the original story
ThisletterfromtheformerUlsterUnionistTerryWright appeared in today’s print edition of the News Letter but the last line was mistakenly edited out, as was his name:
‘Everything needs to change so everything can stay the same.’
These words are spoken by Tancredi, one of the characters in the Italian novel ‘The Leopard,’ written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampadusa.
The story is set in a time of political upheaval in the history of Italy, in particular Sicily, where the plot is set.
The main character, used to privilege and power but now facing unwanted change, must choose between upholding the mantras of the past or breaking with tradition to secure continuity.
It would not be appropriate to stretch comparisons too far or allow cynicism to cloud judgement but has this more than a passing resonance with Northern Ireland where we are asked to welcome the launch of ‘new generation unionism’ by the leader of the DUP?
With echoes of what former DUP leader Peter Robinson said in a speech in the Titanic Quarter, the essence of this latest initiative gravitates around building a collaborative vision with unionists of all shades and backgrounds through acknowledging that unionism is multi-layered with different cultural strands.
Begging the question as to what politicians when fully employed have been doing up to now, there is also a desire to re-invigorate political debate around issues of education, health and the economy. Gone it seems are the days of ‘curry my yoghurt’ and ‘crocodiles.’
Whilst encouraging to note belated recognition that the reality in the community is different to the conversation that the DUP has been trying to dominate, this fresh start modernism will need to fare much better than previous attempts and unless addressed, could founder in the political mire into which political unionism has been dragged.
This new generation unionism will be suffocated by the legacy of the well-documented issues of Spads, RHI, exotic holidays, misuse of expenses which led to court cases and the arrogant denial of the views of the community on Brexit.
These have not gone away, you know and will not be absolved by initiatives that suggest more than a tinge of political expediency in the hope that if things have to change, they can stay the same.
Honest remorse would lay a more solid foundation.
Large swathes of the so-called unionist but now more pro-Union constituency have already moved on. Tired of relatives having to wait unacceptably long times for healthcare; faced with the financial uncertainty of Brexit and the massaging of employment figures which classify 16 hours a week as a full-time job; and having to help family members who cannot afford their own homes or ,in some cases, cope with high childcare costs ,they will not parade blindly to the ballot box.
In the absence of devolved government, alternative leaderships have emerged on culture, social enterprise, peace-building and inter-community reconciliation.
Organisations are acquiring the tools and doing the job. Banishing the old unionist stereotypes for good, they work across the communities, with LBGT, multi-ethnic groups, in schools and bring professional expertise to festivals and inter-community projects
Prepared to challenge their own issues and perceptions they engage in dialogue and lead collaboration on conflict, the past and old prejudices. When problems and differences occur, they are addressed and not allowed to become a barrier to a better future. They are attuned to the community.
Welcome to new generation unionism.
Any leopard seeking to engage should be prepared to change its spots.
Terry Wright, Londonderry
With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter for the original posting