The wagons are being circled within unionism

Today Sinn Féin is the longest serving unadulterated political party in the whole of Ireland. It was founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith and its members founded the revolutionary Irish republic. It has wrought its way through Ireland’s history to the present day, from the pre-treaty/partition period to the present, becoming the largest political party in the north of Ireland and likely to be in the Irish Republic at the next general election. Its progress has been constant.

In the north of Ireland the loyalist character has been fractured and misled. The facts are enough. What happens in the north has at times an impact on the south in one way or another. For too long the north and south of Ireland have stared at one and another like China dogs. In the south the roads are leading to where you want to go. In the north the roads are going nowhere. They are here and they’re staying here. Jeffrey Donaldson has said after the recent local elections that if Sinn Féin emerges as the largest in local government, unionism will have to “look at where it’s going”. But Jeffrey, your roads are going nowhere. Furthermore, he might also be asked what he understands to be the distinction between nationalism and republicanism in the Irish context and to what Charles Stewart Parnell understood it to be during the Land War in the late 19th century. Jonathan Buckley of the DUP summed up its demise in one foul swoop when he commented on the party’s election performance: “We saw a bullying attitude from the Secretary of State, a gang-up from other political parties and a media narrative which laid all blame at the DUP’s door.” Poor Jonathan, seeing his party as the sacrificial lamb.

The quintessential truth remains that the sole legitimacy for the north of Ireland constructed in 1921 was Protestant majoritarianism. The demography underpinning this legitimacy has already gone. The wagons are being circled within unionism. The DUP are increasing calls for one party and no split vote. They cannot achieve this. It would take a gerrymander surpassing anything that was done in the past. The north of Ireland finds itself at a spectacular disruptive juncture. It represents the endgame for the state. It should now turn to constructing something better and more democratic in its place.

Sinn Féin is leading that change right across Ireland and supports a citizens’ assembly on constitutional change to examine a united Ireland border poll. The British government’s role is to help, enable and encourage. Unionism have a part to play. The DUP needs to end this recent boycott of the regional assembly and get back to Stormont now.


Dublin 6

Berating of Linda Ervine misguided

As a great-nephew of Pte James Mitchell, an east Belfast soldier of the First World War who died far too young, and as a school principal and a parent of Irish-speaking children, I find the recent treatment of Linda Ervine online utterly depressing. The misguided berating of Ms Ervine by the TUV’s Anne Smyth will raise many an eyebrow in her constituency – including among those who are interested in the founding fathers of Ulster unionism. Ms Smyth would do well to learn more about Edward Carson’s views on respecting the traditions of others. A good start would be Geoffrey Lewis’s (2006) Carson – The Man Who Divided Ireland, which includes part of a speech he made to the Ulster Unionist Council in 1921: “… from the outset let them say that the Catholic minority have nothing to fear from a Protestant majority... Let us take care that we win all that is best amongst those who have been opposed to us in this community... And so I say: from the start be tolerant to all religions, and, while maintaining to the last your own traditions and your own citizenship, take care that similar rights are preserved for those who differ from us.”

Linda Ervine just cannot stop talking sense and it’s a pity her condition isn’t contagious. Her vision is underpinned by sharing all that is good in her work. Even very young children know that those who don’t share always end up with nothing to share. Her organisation, Turas, and Skainos have done more for access to education and community relations in our divided city than most politicians could ever accomplish. It’s community leaders like Linda, with her people-centredness and generosity, who provide real examples worth following. Her words are not toxic wedges. There’s a reason why an electorate flatly rejects a candidate and rarely is an explanation needed when this occurs. There’s also a reason why a very humble Linda Ervine was awarded her MBE – maybe Ms Smyth could explore that too. Like Linda, I am more than happy to meet Ms Smyth and/or members of her party to offer an insight into Irish, bilingualism and some of the associated offerings for individuals, for our community and for our economy. Those who oppose Irish and Irishness need to move away from thinking that our children and other Irish speakers need their approval to be such. They don’t. They’d much rather have your goodwill and friendship.


Principal, Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain, Belfast BT15

Two-state solution never the answer

I often feel confused and disheartened when I hear broadcasters identify the north as the UK and some in the unionist community identifying themselves as British. It is a very confusing issue when there happens to be a large sea between the two countries. What we have in Ireland today is a two-state solution and that is why there is an identity crisis. It also seems that many of my generation and younger generations identify themselves as northern Irish. I identify myself as Irish but in conversation with people from unionist backgrounds and on campus they don’t identify as British but as northern Irish. Let’s look at reality: the vote Sinn Féin got just didn’t come from nationalist/republican communities. I really believe that a united Ireland would work for all Irish people. But I think to achieve such a great thing it must be put democratically to the people of Ireland in an all-Ireland referendum. The Free State bourgeoisie and hierarchy have turned their back on the Irish people of the north for far too long now and if all the Irish people were allowed a vote in the Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago, why not give the Irish people an all-Ireland vote on the future of our nation.


Belfast BT10

Has the world lost all compassion?

“You have 10 minutes to evacuate the property”, announced the Israeli commander. “But there must be some mistake, this is a home for disabled children, many in wheelchairs. We have no connections to Gaza resistance,” pleaded the owner and carer. But to no avail – the house which had been built through donations was destroyed, leaving the children sitting amongst the rubble in high temperatures. Has the world lost all compassion and morality to ignore the suffering of these people, especially the innocent?


Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim