Ben Lowry: Unionists should visit Dublin more often

Pictured outside the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin is Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and, from left, Steve Aiken OBE, MLA candidate; Jason Burke (Historian); Prof Graham Walker (Queens University Belfast) and Prof Geoffrey Sloan (University of Reading). Pic Kelvin Boyes, Presseye
Pictured outside the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin is Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and, from left, Steve Aiken OBE, MLA candidate; Jason Burke (Historian); Prof Graham Walker (Queens University Belfast) and Prof Geoffrey Sloan (University of Reading). Pic Kelvin Boyes, Presseye

The Ulster Unionist event in Dublin this week illustrated how Ireland has spent most of the last century in a Cold War.

Sitting amid the talks that gave a unionist perspective on 1916, in the library-like setting of the Royal Irish Academy, it seemed incredible that an event so uncontroversial had seemed inconceivable in the recent past.

In fact, I suspect the UUP could have held such an event 25 years ago.

Groups like the INLA and some of the wilder factions in the Provisionals would have made it too dangerous to hold such a seminar in the 1970s . But the Provisionals of the early 1990s would not have dared to attack such an occasion.

It has now happened.

Unionists should be shuttling back and forth to the Republic. They have friends there, and would have many more if they showed more of their human face. A unionist presence ought to be part of the Dublin mix, given how cosmopolitan and varied the Republic’s capital now is.

One of the chief joys of the city is its blend of Irish and British cultures, the latter most apparent in the magnificent architecture.

The Georgian RIA building was completed in 1750, for another role, and is sufficiently grand that perhaps it was reported at the time in the Belfast News Letter, but most editions from then are lost.

With its fine big windows, it was a handsome setting for the return of unionism to Dublin.

Historic unionist event is held in the heart of Dublin

VIDEO: Ulster Unionist event in Dublin