Ben Lowry: UUP event in Dublin was small and unexciting but very important

Danny Kinahan MP speaking at the UUP's event on Wednesday in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, to examine the events of Easter 1916
Danny Kinahan MP speaking at the UUP's event on Wednesday in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, to examine the events of Easter 1916

It was an event that had an audience of perhaps 100 people and at times the subject matter was dry and scholarly.

But yesterday’s Ulster Unionist seminar on Dawson Street in Dublin was in fact a peculiar and very important event.

Peculiar because it was both so ordinary and yet so rare and ground-breaking.

How has it taken a century for the pro-British minority in Ireland to take its case to the capital of the Republic?

In 1987, for example, around the time that the McGimpsey brothers were launching their legal challenge to the Irish constitutional claim on the six counties, and with the Provisional IRA campaign in decline, would it really have been so hard to host an Ulster Unionist seminar in Dublin?

The fact that no such event seems to have taken place for almost a century (unless a reader knows of such an event, in which case please let us know) is a stark illustration of the divisions that followed the 1916 Rising (or what unionists refer to as the rebellion, according to Mr Nesbitt).

There has been deep bitterness on both sides since 1916.

The Queen’s lifespan almost exactly mirrors the divide. She was born five years after partition and became monarch in 1952, travelling to scores of countries around the world including many former British colonies. Yet she did not make it to the Republic of Ireland until 2011, at the age of 85.

It is said that she had longed to visit a territory that was so close, and yet forbidden for so long.

Yesterday another small barrier between the islands was broken.

And when it actually happened, and seemed so straightforward, it only seemed to emphasise the fact that it should not have taken a century.