People are speculating that the newest “moderate” British Unionist party to be announced on Thursday by Basil McCrea and John McAllister will be named “NI21”. This is taken as a reference to “Northern Ireland 21st Century” and the Unionist-leaning media in the north-east of the country (and elsewhere) is going all weak at the knees at the thoughts of this brave new dawn for Unionism in Ireland. The only fly in the ointment may be the fact that “NI21” can also refer to the “official” establishment of the apartheid state of “Northern Ireland” in 1921. A state created through the overthrow of the democratic wishes of the vast majority of the people living on the island of Ireland by a British separatist minority using violence and the threat of violence.
“NI1921”. Not so much a step forward as a nod backwards.
- McCrea won’t confirm ‘NI21’ party name (newsletter.co.uk)
It will be interesting to see at the launch on Thursday if, as they claim, they are a forward looking party or merely trying to claim legitimacy for what was established in 1921. Either way in my opinion it is a mistake on their part referencing that denial of democracy which resulted in NI.
Every time the name of the new party is mentioned it will remind nationalists of that fact.
In addition, the ethos seems to be about establishing a “Northern Ireland” identity. Well, I’m a Dub, not an Ulsterman, I’m from Leinster for my sins. Do I regard Down or Armagh as less Irish than Dublin? I’ll gather my coat and hat and quietly leave the premises before anyone hears…………
From the media-spin the emphasis is on “21st Century”: forward-looking, optimistic, agreed, pluralistic, blah, blah, blah. Same wolf, different sheep’s clothing 😉
That fact that “21” can be interpreted as “1921” is an added bonus. Of course if they actually come out and say that the “21” does indeed reference 1921 and the “foundation of Northern Ireland”. Well, that is the gift that will just keep on giving. The “partitionist party”? The “Twenty-oners”? 😉
This reminds me of 20thC philosopher Alfred Korzybski’s system of ‘General Semantics’ and its spinoff ‘E-Prime’ revision of the English language, by his student David Bourland Jr. E-Prime (E’) removes all versions of the word ‘is’ (ie – all versions of the verb ‘to be’) in order to express things with greater realism. Korzybski suggested that you ought to date-stamp proper nouns in order to make statements historically realistic : For instance, Ulster(1542) and Ulster(1921) were two vastly different versions of ‘Ulster’, and Ulster(2014) is recognisably different to Ulster(1921). To Korzybski, ‘is’ was a photographic snap of a moment of ‘being’ from one person’s perspective (their ‘map’ of reality) that failed to recognise the subject’s dynamic temporal aspects, including its past and future states. His catchphrase was ‘the map is not the territory’. He and Bourland suggested that the verb ‘to be’ ought to be replaced with verbs related to the sensory modalities through which we make assumptions about reality: Using ‘E-Prime’, we might say “I hear from some people that Ulster(2014) is felt to be British” or “On account of all of the flags, Ulster(2014) seems British in places”, but you couldn’t say “Ulster is British”…
Of course, politicians enjoy trying to remove power from their opponents with words. Much of the power of the Irish struggle lies in the memories of past events, and some Unionist politicians (perhaps with the help of UK strategists) seem to be attempting to exploit this by defocussing from the ‘historic’ and placing all terminology in reference to the transient ‘now’ and an unknowable ‘future’, for which they will be an ‘oracle’ for their followers…
This is a sinister aspect to NI21 – joking aside about the potential meaning of NI(1921), it denies the past which is still really important to the people on both sides of the sectarian divide. The formerly socialist UK Labour party attempted in the 90s to secure its future in politics by ditching references to the past, promoting mass-immigration and opening the floodgates to consumerism, creating a nation of suckling piglets who they hoped would vote for them in the future. This effectively fulfilled the Soviet dream of creating a society where the establishment controls the ‘here and now’ of the culture, controls the visions of its future (and hence the aspirations and dreams of the people), and removes the power held by the past. Were the government to be in control of this, then it would be called ‘totalitarian’, but the power lies with the suppliers of produce, over whom the population has no control.
That was very interesting. Some food for thought. Of course the NI21 party has pretty much imploded since that post and in spectacular style with a series of scandals and recriminations. But its temporary existence is indicative of some of the desire to de-historize the north-east and impose a façade of “normalization”.