It is wrong to put the Republic of Ireland’s founders on display at Stormont

News Letter editorial on Friday March 25 2022:

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The TUV leader Jim Allister is known as a politician who speaks bluntly about the alarming things that are happening in Northern Ireland.

But yesterday he spoke with restraint about yet another troubling development.

Mr Allister has pushed for years for Stormont’s art collection taken out of storage. That has now happened, and Mr Allister deserves much credit for helping to bring it about. However, paintings now on display permanently include republican leaders who were central to the violence that led to Ireland securing independence from Britain a century ago.

Mr Allister notes that among the new displays is a painting of Sir Henry Wilson, who was an officer in the Great War and an advisor to the fledgling post partition Stormont government before his murder by the IRA in 1922.

Welcoming the emergence of such an image, Mr Allister said: “Why a portrait of the man who allegedly ordered the murder, Michael Collins, is just round the corner from where Sir Henry Wilson’s now hangs is less easy to determine.”

That is to put it mildly. It is entirely wrong that there is painting of Collins on display or one of Eamon de Valera. These are men who wanted to destroy the very concept of a Northern Ireland. Mr de Valera continued after NI was agreed to try to shatter the deal that had led to partition.

Many people will defend the permanent display of such men at Stormont on grounds of parity of esteem. But it is more than that — it is the latest subtle attempt to interpret equality to mean nothing has primacy in NI, not even the symbols of the country that was created, Northern Ireland, or of the state in which it was to stay, the UK, or the people who fought or led for the fact of such a place on this island.

While the Republic of Ireland proudly celebrates its history and does not display unionist leaders on a par with its own founders, NI has to behave differently and let nationalists think that the principle of consent, leading to UK sovereignty here, is a fact of life without consequences.

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