By Brian Walker
Irish Times, Opinion – Monday, March 12, 2012
Recently the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, warned that Church of Ireland primary schools are “under a creeping threat”. This follows comments last October by Ian Coombes, headmaster of Kilkenny College, that the Protestant secondary school section faces severe problems.
The situation of southern Protestants is obviously of prime interest for the people of the Republic. Less obviously, but very significantly, their position is also of interest to people in the North, especially members of the Protestant and unionist community.
In 1995, Dr John Dunlop, former moderator of the Presbyterian church in Ireland, wrote: “More than any other single factor, the observed decline in the Protestant population in the Republic has confirmed northern Protestants in their prejudices and fears.”
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Prof Brian Walker is a member of the school of politics at Queen’s University Belfast. His book A Political History of the Two Irelands: From Partition to Peace has just been published.
By Brian Walker
Deutsche Welle TV: Of desertion and heroes – the long road to the rehabilitation of Irish deserters
Of desertion and heroes – the long road to the rehabilitation of Irish deserters who voluntarily fought against Nazi Germany, risked their lives – and were punished with contempt in her homeland. Almost 5,000 Irish soldiers left the then neutral Irish army to fight fascism in the second world war on the side of British troops. But upon their return they expected no medals, they were dishonourably dismissed from the army, still suffering to the stigma in their homeland. Now, an initiative to rehabilitate the heroic deserters officially trying. “ttt” (Titel, Thesen, Temperamente) meets war veterans, relatives and historians and talks with them about the long road to reconciliation.
Deutsche Welle TV: European Journal – Ireland: the Deserters
Thousands of Irish troops joined British forces during World War II to fight Nazi-Germany. In their own country, they were punished and scorned as deserters. Ireland was officially neutral in the war. But nearly 5000 Irishmen deserted to join the struggle against the forces of fascism. There were no honours awaiting them upon their return to their own country – only dishonourable discharges from the Irish armed forces. They were stripped of their pensions and some even court-martialled for desertion. A new initiative has been launched to restore the honour of these heroic deserters.
BBC Radio 4: Face the Facts – Pardon for the Disowned Army
The thousands of Irish soldiers who swapped uniforms to fight with the British against Hitler went on to suffer years of persecution on their return home John Waite’s first investigation into their plight, which was broadcast earlier this year, generated huge interest from listeners and was debated in the Irish Parliament. This was the first broadcast to highlight the injustice they suffered and to hear from them about the on-going repercussions and their continued fight for a pardon. The programme led directly to the Irish Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, undertaking an urgent review and, just six months after the broadcast, he announced an official pardon.
By Kevin Myers – Irish Independent
Wednesday April 20 2011
Once again, Fianna Fail – the party which has virtually destroyed this Republic – is talking about “celebrating” the 1916 Rising. But this event divided Ireland more bitterly than it was already divided.
Hundreds died, and it led to a variety of civil wars – between the IRA and the RIC, the IRA and the new Northern government, northern nationalists and loyalist paramilitaries, the IRA and southern unionists, and finally, Anti- and Pro-Treatyites. Thousands of unionists then fled the virulently Catholic and nationalist culture that emerged within the Free State. After which Golgotha, not a single declared aim of the Rising had been achieved. Ah yes. So much to celebrate . . .
So all in all, the Rising was a catastrophe for Ireland – one of many in Europe in that thoroughly evil year of 1916. Only a historically-illiterate political-class such as ours could ‘celebrate’ such an event. But what was the nature of the regime that the rebels were taking arms against? Was it governed by a legal caste of unrepresentative high-born Protestants, chosen for their religion and their loyalty alone? Not quite. The Lord Chancellor in 1916 was Ignatius John O’Brien, an Irish Catholic. The Master of the Rolls was Charles Andrew O’Connor, another Irish Catholic. The two Lord Justices of Appeal were Stephen Ronan and Thomas Francis Molony, Irish Catholics both. The Solicitor General was James O’Connor, a Blackrock College boy. And finally, the King’s Bench Division of ten judges contained five Catholics. Ten of the 15 highest legal positions in the land for which John Redmond had just won Home Rule were held by Irish Catholics.
Six years later in 1922, after thousands of deaths, who was dispensing common law from the benches of Irish courts in the new Free State? Why, the very same judges who had been doing just that in 1916. True, a largely new bench would come into existence in June 1924, but it included two of the existing judges, and of course, all dispensing the very selfsame laws as before 1916.
One of these judges, William Evelyn Wylie, who remained on the Free State bench until 1936, had actually served with the Trinity Officer Training Corps against the Rising, and later prosecuted the rebel leaders. Of Countess Markievicz, he wrote: “. . . she curled up completely. ‘I am only a woman’, she cried, ‘and you cannot shoot a woman. You must not shoot a woman.’ She never stopped moaning, the whole time she was in the courtroom . . . I think we all felt slightly disgusted . . . she had been preaching to a lot of silly boys, death and glory, die for your country, etc, and yet she was literally crawling. I won’t say any more, it revolts me still.”
News Letter – Monday 25 May 2012
ONE of the architects of the 1998 Belfast Agreement has raised questions in Parliament about whether the Republic of Ireland is complying with its human rights obligations under the Agreement.
Lord Kilclooney, who as John Taylor was UUP deputy leader, said that he was particularly concerned at the decision to cut funding to Protestant church schools in the Republic.
Picture by Brian Little
The Irish News – 21 May 2012
The “Balmoral Review” at Ormeau Park on Saturday was billed as the first in the Decade of Centenaries. It marked a century since the original Balmoral Review, when 200,000 were addressed by Edward Carson during the campaign against Home Rule.
Saturday’s Ormeau Park demonstration was also impressive with 10,000 marchers, banners, bands and Orangemen. Smartly dressed UDA men in dark green blazers and UVF men in period dress or neat suits joined in.
The demonstration passed peacefully through Belfast without significant incident. A Joint Unionist Centenary Committee, representing Unionist and Loyalist organizations including Belfast Grand Orange Lodge organized the event. It was vital that it passed peacefully as other contentious demonstrations are to follow.
Reports of loyalist participation alongside Orangemen and Apprentice Boys suggested a unique, if underplayed, demonstration. The Orange Order previously seemed embarrassed at the prospect of loyalists promoting peace. The TUV’s Jim Allister still seems angry at the prospect of former UVF prisoners sharing experiences of conflict transformation in Israel.
As I approached the demonstration I saw what from a distance looked like the Boys Brigade (BB) youth organization wearing ceremonial white haversacks on parade. As I moved closer I realized it was men parading in suits and white sashes.
The sashes had blue and red stripes with the words, “Ulster Protestant Volunteer Division” alongside a Red Hand. The last time I observed UPV Divisions on parade wearing similar sashes, was around 1968 when UPV men and women passed Belfast City Hall in formation.
They then operated under the auspices of the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee (UCDC) under chairman Rev Ian Paisley. I had an eerie feeling of being back 50 years rather than 100.
We were standing literally yards from Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church where a monument stands dedicated to the memory of “Lord Carson and his Ulster Volunteer Force”. It was placed there by UPV’s parent body, the UCDC.
But surely the UPV went out of existence after some members were convicted of firearms offensives and one died in the wake of an attempted bombing of an electricity substation in the Irish Republic?
One sash wearing man confirmed that the UPV still held church and other parades. But a nearby loyalist suggested all was not as it seemed so I approached another UPV sash wearer, “Are you really the UPV?” His hesitant answer suggested that this was not the original UPV.
A few yards away a convivial carnival atmosphere prevailed with bouncy castles and swings for children. A religious service with regimental style flags appeared to be generally ignored.
That loyalists should participate alongside the Orange Order was a potentially positive and unexpected development. Many Orangemen, perhaps understandably, tend to prefer distancing themselves even from former paramilitaries.
But loyalists played a crucial role in the peace process and have been winding down their organizations, although not without difficulties, for some time. Some looked, often in vain, for support from the wider community hoping that the Orange Order and Unionist Parties might help facilitate change.
On Saturday I felt encouraged to see Mike Nesbitt UUP leader and his predecessor Tom Elliott giving unstinted support. This can’t have been easy because loyalists, like republicans, have done terrible things. But as David Trimble said, because people have a past should not mean they have no future.
Despite Jim Allister’s criticisms the UVF are following a scheme ACT (Action for Community Transformation) aimed at reaching a better future for themselves and others. Frankie Gallagher of the UDA aligned UPRG was sporting a tie with the words “Ulster Defense Union” (UDU). The UDU also represents a project of civilianization and could become an Old Comrades Association.
One thing strikes me. Our centenary “celebrations” should not only seek inclusivity but should also acknowledge our victims. The events of a century ago left a legacy of thousands of victims who must surely also be acknowledged.
Some were paramilitaries. Jackie McDonald told of many who were teenagers during the conflict but who today still suffer unspeakable consequences. There are differences between them and innocent victims but broadly speaking we all contributed to the mayhem that has bubbled up at times throughout the century.
To humbly apologize and offer hands of friendship is the least we can do if the Decade of Centenaries is to mean anything significant. The Combined Loyalist Military Command stated in 1994, “Let us resolve to respect our differing views of freedom, culture and aspiration and never again permit our political circumstances to degenerate into bloody warfare”. Perhaps all our centenary demonstrations should include such an Act of Dedication.
Article reproduced courtesy of The Irish News
Irish Independent – Friday May 18 2012
Pierce Martin in his letter (Irish Independent, May 15) and the reactions to it, raises challenging questions about what constitutes Irish identity. A significant casualty from the collapse of the Celtic Tiger has been the shattering of our overconfident sense of ourselves.
Allied to this is the fact that the popular presumption that to be Irish is to be Catholic or Protestant has become less assured.
Ulster Unionist Party Leader Tom Elliott has spoken at Trinity College Dublin at an event organised by the Reform Society to mark Commonwealth Day. Mr Elliott said: “It was a great pleasure for me to be in Trinity College Dublin on Commonwealth Day and to address the Reform Society. The relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic and between Dublin and London has improved beyond all recognition in the past 15 years. They have certainly improved since 1980 when the then Prime Minister of the Republic decreed that no help was to be given by the Garda into the investigation into the 1979 IRA murder of 18 soldiers at Narrow Water near Warrenpoint on the grounds that this was a “political crime”.
“Thankfully times have changed, the improved relationships we now enjoy are a most welcome development and I sincerely hope and trust that these relationships will continue to develop in the coming years.
“Her Majesty the Queen made a very important point during her visit to Dublin Castle last year when she said, ‘We should bow to the past but not be bound by it.’
“This must be borne in mind by all sides and whilst a great deal of progress has been made we must recognise that there remains a great deal of work to be done.
“In my discussions with a variety of individuals and groups in the Republic I have been made aware that there is still a lack of confidence amongst those in the Republic of a pro-British mindset and who would–for example–be supportive of a return to the Commonwealth.
“The proof of a lasting thaw in relationships between Dublin and London will be when those in the Republic who of a pro-British mindset can state with confidence that they are no longer living in a cold house.
“I am convinced that if the Republic were to rejoin the Commonwealth this would send an important signal that the Republic of Ireland of the 21st Century was no longer a prisoner of its history and was ready to assume a place on the World stage as part of the Commonwealth family.”
[Watch the full speech here.]
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This year’s Commonwealth Day theme for Monday 12th March is “Connecting Cultures”. This involves an exploration of cultural traditions across the planet to be displayed in words, music and dance. The diversity is in tune with the concept of a Commonwealth that covers 2 billion people in 54 different countries across the globe.
The origins of the Commonwealth lie with the British Empire but the name also reminds us of Cromwell’s Commonwealth. The latter was a Republic that covered these islands. Neither Cromwell’s Commonwealth nor the British Empire was faultless yet the ideas on which they were based contain the seeds of a more wholesome future for human beings in that commonwealth suggests sharing.
Commonwealth Day is not officially marked in the Republic but for the third year running the Reform Group will mark the day in Dublin. Reform is a nonsectarian, nonparty group that promotes a pluralist, open agenda for an inclusive modern Irish republic.
They accept that progress has been made but believe much work remains to be done. A better Ireland would be better served if the Republic were to join the Commonwealth. The Day is to be marked at the Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin, on Monday next at 6.00pm.
Tom Elliott, UUP leader is to be the speaker. He has hailed Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the Republic as a resounding success that opens up new possibilities.
Her positive reception is another step towards the Irish Republic joining the Commonwealth. It is significant that the UUP leader is saying these things and taking steps towards improving relationships north and south by going to Dublin.
In contrast the previous UUP leader regretted too much emphasis on north-south links. Perhaps he was thinking of formal linkages, which are important but surely it is also informal relationships built between ordinary people at all levels that makes a real difference.
In the late 1980s I set out deliberately to become acquainted with and understand people in the Republic. Until then the South remained a remote, foreign and at times threatening place. This was despite my family having lived near Dundalk for centuries and having retained family links in Monaghan.
I can still recall the sense of dread on crossing the border and the relief on returning home during the 1960s and 70s. Returning to the patchwork quilted patterned fields of Northern Ireland was always comforting. Friends in the South similarly feared crossing in the opposite direction although many did so on both sides.
In the longer term crossing that border was a liberating experience. One result was the formation of the Guild of Uriel as a vehicle through which we could share experiences with friends from a wide range of backgrounds. The resulting dialogue was satisfying and encouraging.
The reaction of young Loyalists in the 1990s was instructive. They feared the crossing but could hardly believe the warmth of the reception they received. Yet even some Unionist politicians still feared being shot by the IRA after crossing the border.
What amazed me was the empathy that ordinary people could show each other. Members of Reform met with local Catholics who seemed shocked to discover that fellow citizens of the Irish Republic could feel so alienated from the dominant ethos.
Tom Elliott now echoes what I have said in this column about the value of Irish Commonwealth membership. This could help cement and heal relationships not only across these islands but also with a worldwide family of nations that would surely be in keeping with the best of Irish traditions.
The modern Commonwealth dates from 1949 when the word “British” was removed from the title. But Ireland also left the Commonwealth and North and South became more estranged. The time has now surely come to mend relationships and heal ancient hurts.
There is nothing incongruous about a republic in membership of the Commonwealth. In fact most present members are republics and, although Queen Elizabeth remains symbolic Head, future heads need not be monarchs.
The Commonwealth is a free association of nations working together on a basis of equality while committed to democracy and human rights. It is a force for progress in the world that has the capacity to help move us towards a better world through “connecting cultures”.
Perhaps Winston Churchill’s words quoted recently by Eamon Phoenix, are relevant in this context and during this Ulster Covenant year “Let Ulster fight for the dignity and honour of Ireland; let her fight for the reconciliation of races and for the forgiveness of ancient wrongs…. Then indeed Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right”.
Article reproduced courtesy of The Irish News
News Letter – Thursday 1 March 2012
ULSTER Unionist leader Tom Elliott will outline his reasons why the Republic should consider re-joining the Commonwealth in a landmark speech in Dublin later this month.
The UUP chief will be the guest speaker at an event in Trinity College to mark International Commonwealth Day on March 12.
Mr Elliott is expected to focus on the successful and historic state visit of the Queen to the south last May and how the monarch was warmly received by the Irish public.
Photograph: News Letter
Belfast Telegraph – Monday, 6 February 2012
The Republic of Ireland should consider rejoining the Commonwealth as Britain celebrates the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party said.
Her visit to Dublin and Cork last year suggested a new relationship between the two states, Tom Elliott added.