Sunday, September 25, 2005


Nationalism and Britishness

I came across the following letter in the Belfast Telegraph by 'Unionist and British' from Bangor and thought it was an interesting read.

Here is the letter in full:

"Not only do nationalists refuse to recognise the British identity and culture of unionists but also they do everything in their power to help to destroy it. It says a lot for them that they are describing unionist culture as sectarian.

It is unbelievable that this basic human right of being able to cherish and promote one's own history, identity and culture is being obstructed so blatantly by nationalists.

Why then should unionists discuss the resumption of the Northern Ireland Assembly with so bitter and so hostile opponents?

Nationalists intend to make the Assembly a springboard for a united Ireland and as a vehicle for gaining more favours from inherently anti-unionist Labour politicians, aided and abetted by the Republic.

Ironically, nationalists have created the situation where the majority of unionists are now opposed to an Assembly.

Unionists should refuse to have any talks with nationalists until they publicly recognise the unionists' British identity.

Apparently in a united Ireland, a non-sequitur if ever there was one, all cultures will be treated equally.

Perhaps nationalists should be getting in some practice now. Unionists should not be holding their breath."

There's a couple of points I'd like to tackle here. Firstly, in relation to nationalists wanting to destroy 'the British identity and culture of unionists', I do not accept this. I presume that the author is making reference to the anger felt at the recent Orange Order marches. I would like to ask, if marching is such a fundamental part of being British, why do most Scottish, Welsh and English people not partake in it? To me, these marches are about triumphalism and putting nationalists/Catholics in their place. If nationalists protest against the marches, they are criticsed for attacking unionist culture, yet if they do nothing, then the Orange Order succeed in making them look like second-class citizens.

Secondly, on the point about nationalists using the Assembly as a springboard to a United Ireland, I think nationalists will indeed point to the benefits of continued cooperation but the Assembly is simply a microcosm of what complete cooperation could entail. Nationalists cannot 'spring' Irish unity on unionists without their prior consent.

On the last point, I actually agree with the author. Nationalists should start acknowledging the British tradition on this island and should start giving it the respect it deserves. It is the only way a United Ireland can be achieved.

All in all, I think there is alot of scaremongering in this article about Irish nationalism and a United Ireland.

The only way to alleviate fears such as these is to reach out the olive branch to unionists and see how they respond. Regardless of whether you want a United Ireland or the continued existence of the 6 county statelet, the fact remains - cooperation is a must.


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