We are British, we want to remain British, so what is there to talk about?
Did anyone feel like making this response to the pre-Christmas media interview with our Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl who said “unionism is not having the same level of conversation that nationalism is and I think they need to”?
I understand the temptation to respond in this way, too often casual conversations on issues of nationality or our future end up with whataboutery, antagonism and the allocation of blame. But could a more structured conversation on what would make NI stable help?
What is needed to make a stable, long lasting country? At the very least you need four things:
1. A national territory defined by borders.
2. A sense of nationality created by a common narrative
3. An accepted system of government
4. A small set of common languages.
On points 1, 2 and 3 Northern Ireland has problems, and we as unionists must address these, if we want long term stability. A letters page has limited space so lets deal with number 2.
If like me you If like me you grew up with a British identity, you will have absorbed a set of common national stories that made you comfortable being British, from Robin Hood and Richard the Lionheart, the defeat of the Spanish Armada to Britain standing alone against Nazi Germany.
The nationalist community in NI share some aspects of this narrative, but will also identify strongly with the feelings of injustice over the painful partition of Ireland during the creation of Northern Ireland.
Because our two communities still do not easily discuss such issues our people have no common history about the creation of NI, we cling on to our own comfortable myths and we have no agreed narrative on which to base a stable Northern Irish identity.
Surely, if we in the unionist community want long term stability we need to find a way to engage all of our people in the story of N. Ireland in a realistic way.
Perhaps the suggestion from our Lord Mayor is worthy of further consideration?
Arnold Carton, Belfast BT6
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