Let us celebrate a century of Northern Ireland, as well as building for the next century

News Letter editorial of December 15 2020:

By Editorial
Tuesday, 15th December 2020, 9:00 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Unionists are often grateful for small mercies.

The government will put at least £3 million into next year’s centenary of Northern Ireland, which is not a huge sum but it is at least a start.

This is a remarkable ‘wee country’, loved by its inhabitants and by its expats, who typically return home on visits whenever they can, It is loved too by those celebrities, such as sporting greats, who always seem to want to share their victories with their loyal fans back home.

However, the history of Northern Ireland is increasingly being blackened by those who still want to end it and the UK government is right to discard such distortions.

The money being proposed at present for the commemorations is modest. Think how big the West Belfast festival has become and you would hope that London would put millions of pounds into an extravaganza, involving the famous names.

But there is a pandemic ongoing so bringing that under control is the top priority for this society as it is for societies around the world. Once that has happened let us hope the centenary plans can be built upon further.

In elaborating on his thoughts about Northern Ireland, via the Policy Exchange think tank yesterday, the secretary of state Brandon Lewis expressed optimism about the future of the Province. As both he and Arlene Foster noted, the demise of NI has been cited many times in the past.

Mr Lewis observed that public sector employees make up a much bigger share of the workforce here than in Great Britain — heading towards double the proportion. This, as he said, needs to change.

NI, for all its political challenges, is a more prosperous and stable society than 50 or even 30 years ago. It is a fine place to live, work and raise a family. It might be that lockdown has reminded people who live elsewhere in big cities of that.

Let’s celebrate a century of achievement and advance, as well as resilience in the darker days, and plan towards an even better century to come.

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Alistair Bushe