Éire Ghaelach – Éire Shaor
Outreach? What outreach?!
Looking on at the hostility of many in the British separatist minority as they react to the half-hearted overtures by the Joint First Minister Peter Robinson to northern “Roman Catholic voters” one is struck yet again by the fact that many who regard themselves as “British in Ireland” will never come to terms with the reality of sharing this island with a much larger majority who are simply Irish in Ireland. You cannot reconcile the irreconcilable and diehard British ethnic separatists, whose origins lie in a complex and tangled history of colonial settlement and rule, will never accept anything other than British rule.
In our ongoing “peace war”, where even events to promote the peace become simply another arena of the conflict, everything comes down to this contest of wills. From the British Unionist press, a report in the Newsletter:
“PROTESTANT youths celebrating the end of a successful cross-border “reconciliation” event stormed out following a speech by a Sinn Fein junior minister.
Around 140 young people were attending the dinner on Saturday night in Donegal when Martina Anderson MLA delivered a speech, described by one participant as “glorifying” the IRA’s role in the Troubles.
The year-long cross-border, cross-community project involved various youth and community groups coming together to explore the joint sacrifice of the Irish and Ulster divisions during the First World War.
According to east Belfast woman Gwen Ferguson, who attended Saturday’s dinner as a member of the Cregagh Community Association (CCA) in east Belfast, the group was “shocked and disgusted” that Ms Anderson had been invited to speak.
Ms Ferguson has been involved in youth work for eight years and said that while there are certain cross-community projects addressing political differences, the Inishowen Development Partnership initiative had taken place in a “politically neutral” environment.
Ms Ferguson said her whole party felt they had no option but to walk out during the junior minister’s address: “The groups got on so well so it would be a shame if this destroyed everything. I don’t know what’s going to happen. The whole project has been all about the history of the Irish and Ulster soldiers who fought in the war, and nothing else.
“She started off speaking in Irish and then started going on about how proud she was to be a republican and that she had served time in jail.”
Ok. Given the circumstances a speech by Martina Anderson referencing the recent Irish armed struggle in any sort of triumphalist manner might well have been questionable. It certainly gave yet another casus belli to the vicious online Commentariat of the British minority to get all hot and bothered about. Rather stranger is the objection to her use of the Irish language. From reports it seems that the members of the British community present were insulted not just by her words but quite literally by her language too. They didn’t want their ears or minds “contaminated” by the indigenous language of the island they are living on (where does that remind you of?).
However, there is a problem with the story. A major problem.
It’s not true.
In fact retired Garda PJ Hallinan who attended the event has made it clear that there were no speeches about the Irish Republican Army, and that the majority of those who walked out of the meeting did so before Martina Anderson made her address. There was no storming out of “Protestant youths” (and how emotionally loaded and charged are those terms? What next? Black men impregnating our young white girls? German youth being defiled by mixing with Jews?). In other words, it was a staged anti-Sinn Féin stunt, presumably prearranged beforehand by those who object to the very existence the party. And at a cross-community, cross-border peace event!
The Peace Process, for all its welcome nature, was, and is, nothing more than the staving off of the inevitable. Indeed Partition itself has been little more than the ultimate “long finger”. And we all know how “successful” that has been. The eventual reunification of Ireland without some sort of “ethno-national conflict” between the Irish majority and a sizeable proportion of the British minority living on the island of Ireland is a pipedream. Partition, the “Border”, “Northern Ireland” itself, was simply a way of keeping that greater conflict at bay for as long as possible.
While we can, and should, strive to be understanding of the British community in the north-east of the country, and of their genuine fears and genuine sense of “otherness”, it should not blind us to reality. Comfortable self-delusion contributed to decades of war in the North. By all means we should facilitate the continuing peace by making the (perhaps painful) constitutional, legal and political guarantees or arrangements that will be required by at least part of the British minority if they are to accept living in the reunified state. It will, after all, be their state too.
However, we know that many, perhaps even the majority, will not accept any compromise on the position they currently now have. Their attitude is one found throughout multi-ethnic and –national Europe: what we have we hold.
The unfortunate and dreadful truth is this: the final reckoning, the last bloody death spasms of the British colony in Ireland, is inevitable. Eventually it will happen; and sooner than we think.