Showing posts from September, 2016

Irish identity grounded firmly in the UK

The Irish Times published a series of articles examining relationships between “Ireland and Britain”.  In a typically forthright piece, the paper’s columnist, Newton Emerson, writes that he does “not feel Irish in the slightest”.  He grew up in Northern Ireland at a time when direct rule made it “as British as Finchley”.  

I’m a little younger than Newton and my attitudes are slightly different.  I do consider myself Irish, but the Irishness I feel has little to do with the Republic of Ireland and it sits happily alongside my sense of Britishness.  For me, Northern Ireland is “as British as Finchley”, or Stirling, or Caerphilly, it just isn’t the same as Finchley.  

I grew up in Ballymena, Ian Paisley’s heartland, where hostility to Irish identity was not  uncommon.  After winning his first international cap, one of the town’s rugby stars, Davy Tweed, was reputed to say, “I’ve played thirty times for my country (Ulster) and once for Ireland”.  

Like Newton, many of my cultural references…

There is no Brexit 'crisis' in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s public affairs magazine, Agenda NI, held a conference recently about the ‘Brexit crisis’. It was a clever title for the event but, almost three months after the referendum, it’s clear that there is no crisis around Brexit, and political attempts to manufacture one are not succeeding. The exact details will be subject to complex negotiations, but Britain will leave the EU and both parts of the island of Ireland will have to adjust. For Northern Ireland, Brexit presents specific challenges. There are anxieties about what form the Irish border might take, when it becomes a boundary between the UK and the European Union. The Republic’s ambassador in London, Dan Mulhall, told a Westminster committee last week that he is confident a ‘common travel area’, which guarantees free movement between the two countries, will be preserved. These border arrangements pre-date membership of the EU and they complement British and southern Irish laws that ensure neither country’s citiz…

MLA posted on racist Facebook thread

Jenny Palmer won an extra seat for the Ulster Unionists in Lagan Valley, at last May's Assembly election.  The former councillor previously resigned from the DUP, after alleging she had been bullied during a controversy over Housing Executive maintenance contracts.

The MLA quickly caused a headache for her new party by becoming involved in a row about migrants trying to cross the English Channel.  She was accused of writing a Facebook post which compared them to dogs.

Palmer quickly apologised and explained that her comment was a poorly worded joke, which, on the surface, seemed reasonable.  However, she had replied on a thread started by a poster who made a shockingly racist comment about 'beating niggers' out from under a bus.

Why on earth would an MLA become involve in a discussion which opened with such an unpleasant remark, unless she intended to challenge its racism?  This wasn't just an instance of someone taking offence too quickly, where none was intended.  …