Northern Ireland news

Co Tyrone man who created framework for Scotland's 2014 independence poll says 'complex identities' of NI being undermined

Ciaran Martin hails from Omagh

A Co Tyrone man who created the framework for Scotland’s 2014 independence poll has described the post-Brexit attempts to "redesign" the UK as being based on "a narrow 17th-century notion of English sovereignty".

Ciaran Martin, who hails from Omagh, has spoken out about the "complex identities" of the north and also described how there has been a "dramatic removal of the acceptance and appreciation of the subtleties of national identities" particularly in Northern Ireland.

A former pupil at Christian Brothers Grammar School, Omagh where he was head-boy and member of the McRory Cup Gaelic football squad, he was the first CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre. He served in the Cabinet Office from 2011, helping to agree the framework for the Scottish independence referendum.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Mr Martin said Northern Ireland's "complex identities" were being undermined post-Brexit and said there was "not a unionism of partnership".

"It’s a unionism where England sets the rules because that’s enough for a governing majority," he said.

"If Scotland doesn’t like it, it gets overruled or ignored. If Northern Ireland doesn’t like it, it gets told nothing’s really changed but here are some special, highly destabilising arrangements to make sure you don’t mess things up for England.

"It’s astounding just how fast the idea and practice of the UK as a partnership seems to be declining."

Mr Martin also spoke about the border issue in Northern Ireland and said there had been a "dramatic removal of the acceptance and appreciation" of subtleties of national identities.

"What sort of UK is the government building and what is Northern Ireland’s place in it? Because at the moment it seems that the UK government wants to build a post-Brexit UK based on a very 17th-century English notion of parliamentary sovereignty," he said.

"It was delivered with English and Welsh votes but we are talking about a very singular sense of identity rooted in the English tradition.

"There has been a dramatic removal of the acceptance and appreciation of the subtleties of national identities within the United Kingdom, particularly in Northern Ireland at a time when identity there is becoming much more complicated."

He added: "So we have a highly nuanced position in Northern Ireland, and yet we have now got a redesign of the British state based on an incredibly English version of national identity, which is probably one of the most unhelpful developments that could have happened to Northern Ireland".

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