Extreme modern nationalism divides people and it is always a mistake

I was interested to read your recent letter (‘SF leader: As a new Ireland emerges we need to work together and be truthful,’ March 26).

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 5:39 pm
Updated Friday, 29th March 2019, 7:26 am
Virtually all unionists across the UK want a close relationship and friendship between the UK and Republic of Ireland

I care about Northern Ireland, I’m sure you do to, so I hope you will permit me to say that your letter contained much that was decent and reasonable, some that was muddled, and frankly some where you are kidding yourself.

I’m sure that you now accept that walking behind that St Patrick’s Day ‘England get out of Ireland’ banner was not a good look.

This is, after all, 2019. More worrying still was the Sinn Fein Twitter account caption “no explanation needed”. That was the really serious error because it hints at frankly odd institutionalised thinking, even delusion.

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You and your team were obviously not expecting the furore that you caused. But, after all, we all make mistakes and we can always learn from them.

Virtually all people across the UK who, when pushed, would think of themselves as unionists want an extremely close relationship and friendship between the UK and Republic of Ireland, and obviously especially between both jurisdictions within Ireland. That is why I am horrified by Brexit, for example.

But you should not expect that the present turmoil will lead to the political changes you desire. We are now aware of the risks, and fast moving events at Westminster might well now bring about a very soft Brexit, eventually no Brexit at all, or at least acceptance of Mrs May’s unloved deal as a first step back to sense. Sorry about that, but I understand why you are excited by the opportunities the present chaos may bring you. It offers scope for polemics and political change.

You will notice I mentioned the UK and Ireland whereas you talk of England. England is not a state. There is no English government. I accept that your nationalism is not directed at individual people, and absolutely believe you and I respect you for that, but rather it is directed at political entities, and exists in a world of concepts and constructions. But, once again, England is not a political entity.

Your argument is actually with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and, unfortunately for you and the rest of us, with those who wish to live in the United Kingdom.

This is the fundamental problem with which you must come to terms in your own way.

You mention Wolfe Tone and old slogans. Once again, I would gently point out that this is 2019. Please try to understand that extreme modern nationalism, however constitutional it may be, is always a mistake. Quite simply, it divides people, the opposite of what, in its confusion, it thinks it is doing.

You are an elected representative, and that offers so much potential to do good.

In the Republic of Ireland, for example, a politician who transformed the health service and made it as extensive as those of continental Western Europe would win national admiration and go down in history, in a good way. There are so many positive things for a politician to do, and so many false trails to follow.

Unlike some readers of the News Letter I respected Martin McGuinness and respect Gerry Adams.

I suspect I will not win many friends for saying that. But I admired the journey they made, and their courage, starting in a bad place, reaching a better one.

As a fortunate Dublin lady you started in a good place. I would ask you not to end up in a worse one by becoming too attached to views best left in the 18th or 19th century. Do not kid yourself, obsessive nationalism is obsessive nationalism, however it is re-packaged

I wish you well on the sometimes difficult journey we all make through this life.

John Gemmell, Shropshire