Thursday, April 27, 2006


Thursday Thoughts: 'Northern Irishness'

A manipulated region"You can no more split Ireland into two parts than you can split England or Scotland into parts. Ireland is a nation; not two nations, but one nation."

British PM Herbert Asquith, speaking in 1912.

Hugh over at Most Sincerely Folks wrote an interesting post on the issue of 'Northern Irishness' and how he suspects there really is no such thing. Long-term readers of this site will know that I take the same view and Hugh drew my attention to the fact that United Irelander actually tops Google's 200 search results for "Northern Irishness".

The essence of Hugh's argument was the same as my previous arguments - if there is a 'Northern Irish' nationality then ergo there must be a 'Northern Irish' nation. As we all know however, there is not.

'Northern Irishness' is a lie. People who describe themselves as 'Northern Irish' are the equivalent of football supporters who call themselves ABUs (Anybody But United). They cling to this 'Northern Irishness' because they oppose 'Irishness' due to its connotations. They have basically allowed others to dictate to them what Irishness must mean and so they run to the sanctuary of their false 'Northern Irish' nationality which, if pressed, they would be unable to define.

For instance, what are the colours of this 'Northern Irishness'? If you ask an Irishman to describe the colours of Irishness he will most likely reply green, white and orange. Ask a Briton and the likely reply will be red, white and blue. Ask someone who feels Northern Irish the same question and what reply will you get? Will you even get an answer?

And what is the relationship between 'Northern Irishness' and Irishness and 'Northern Irishness' and Britishness? Can someone 'Northern Irish' even answer that?

The simple truth is that without a nation you cannot have a nationality. The Irish nationality stems from the Irish nation. The Irish nation is the 32-county entity that Herbert Asquith spoke of in 1912 when Ireland was part of the UK. That nation remains the same to this day. States may have been formed in that time such as the Republic of Ireland but the Irish nation remains the same regardless. The Irish nation is a product of the four provinces of Ireland. It is a product of centuries upon centuries of shared culture, history and politics. It is indestructible.

In contrast, 'Northern Irishness' is the product of a manipulated territory known as Northern Ireland which was designed to guarantee an unfair Unionist majority in 6 Ulster counties. An entity which Lloyd Gerge described as "a frontier based neither upon natural features nor broad geographical considerations." From this shady, dishonest foundation it is hardly surprising that the nationality of 'Northern Irishness' failed. Likewise, it's hardly surprising that Northern Ireland itself has been an abject failure. Its legacy is sectarianism, political misrule and murder. Why would anyone want a nationality out of such a place?

One has only to look at Northern Ireland today to see the lie that is 'Northern Irishness'. The flag for Northern Ireland is the Union Jack - the people in NI have no desire even for a flag to represent the region! As well as that none of the four main parties in the North describe themselves as 'Northern Irish'. Unsurprisingly, the nationalist parties regard themselves as simply Irish but even the unionist parties refuse to embrace 'Northern Irishness'. The DUP are unashamedly British and the UUP even went so far as to launch an astonishing campaign slogan called, "Simply British", where they not only showed their contempt for Irishness but 'Northern Irishness' as well! The two main nationalities in NI are still Irishness and Britishness.

Prior to Partition, unionists described themselves as Irish. Both Edward Carson and James Craig continued to regard themselves as Irish. If you go back further through time, you'll find Protestant movements like the Patriots who took an active interest in Gaelic culture as well as Ulster Protestant involvement in the Irish volunteers who along with Grattan sought an Irish parliament. Radical Presbyterians even sought to dismantle all ties with England and establish an Irish republic.

The orange is a part of us too

When you look at it objectively, unionist hostility to Irishness means unionists have allowed themselves to be dictated to on what nationality they can and cannot identify with. Up until The Troubles in the North, many unionists continued to call themselves Irish yet when the Provo's campaign stepped up a gear, a campaign most Irish people did not support, unionists allowed themselves to be bullied by it.

The Provos might not have bombed unionists out of the UK, but to a large degree they bombed unionists out of their identity.

I personally look forward to the day when the island of Ireland is reunited once more. When several nationalities will live together in a 32 county nation-state. Where we will see Irish, Polish-Irish, Chinese-Irish, Nigerian-Irish and of course British-Irish living and working together in harmony.

"No surrender" went the unionist cry during The Troubles yet many of these unionists went on to surrender their Irishness. Sticking the word 'Northern' in front of the word 'Irishness' doesn't alter that fact.

Irishness is indeterminate. No one can deny unionists their rightful place in this nation. These days, no one will. Just ask the immigrants that continue to make Ireland their home.

This country is for unionists too. They should never forget that and I personally hope that, one day soon, they'll realise that.

"My...words to are these: It has always been a pride to a man, no matter what part of the country he came from, to say he was an Irishman." - James Craig


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