Samuel Morrison: There is little sign that Dublin’s shared island unit is inclusive to unionists

Wednesday’s News Letter had three pieces critical of unionist refusal to engage with Micheal Martin’s Shared Island initiative.
Micheal Martin launched the Shared Island Unit last week. There is little sign that it plans to tackle unionist concerns that were outlined nearly half a century agoMicheal Martin launched the Shared Island Unit last week. There is little sign that it plans to tackle unionist concerns that were outlined nearly half a century ago
Micheal Martin launched the Shared Island Unit last week. There is little sign that it plans to tackle unionist concerns that were outlined nearly half a century ago

(They can be read in the links beneath this letter)

One of the articles (by Aaron Rankin) effectively told us it was nothing to do with furthering a key aim of Mr Martin’s party – Irish unification.

The other (by Liam Kennedy) criticised unionists while accepting that the initiative was about a united Ireland.

Letter to the editorLetter to the editor
Letter to the editor
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A writer from Dundalk (Mary Russell) assures unionists that we who share this island have a better understanding of each other than anyone who lives on the island next door.

Leaving aside the fact that many of us have family living in the rest of the UK, our country, the contributions to your paper far from showing an understanding of is issues displayed a fundamental misunderstanding of where people from the unionist community see themselves.

Professor Liam Kennedy’s piece was more perceptive than the other two but I was struck by the fact that he began with a reference to JC Beckett. Professor Beckett wrote an interesting letter to The Times (March 2 1972).

He posed a challenge to the then Irish Prime Minister Jack Lynch who, like Mr Martin today, expressed a desire for Irish unity. Beckett said questions would have to be answered before unionists would engage in such a process. He put three in his letter:

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• 1 What guarantee is to be given to the northern Protestants that they will not share the fate of their co-religionists in the Republic…?

• 2 Will the Gaelic language retain its privileged position?

• 3 What will be the constitutional relationship with the Commonwealth?

I would contend that if we measure Dublin’s sincerity by the yardstick of Prof Beckett — as Prof Kennedy invited us to do — the Republic hasn’t made any progress in 48 years.

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In 2014 I stood in Rossnowlagh with brother Orangemen when the grand master invited President Higgins to the Orange parade in Donegal the following year. Did he accept? I didn’t see him when I returned. I can find no record he even acknowledged it.

During talks to restore Stormont Dublin backed Sinn Fein demands on an Irish Language Act with no consideration given to unionist concerns.

Rejoining the Commonwealth doesn’t even feature in the agenda of the Shared Ireland initiative.

Moving beyond JC Beckett’s questions of 1972, none of the issues Prof Kennedy rightly cites as concerns of unionists feature in the agenda of this body as outlined by the President of the Irish Republic.

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There is certainly no scope for, as he suggests, making the case for the Union within the initiative.

Furthermore, there is no suggestion that the Shared Ireland initiative might tackle any of the myriad of other issues Dr Beckett might have listed had he written in 2020.

No hint that Dublin might face up to its role in facilitating the PIRA.

No indication that it will set up something parallel to the bodies proposed in Stormont House to examine its bloody role in Northern Ireland over 30 years.

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Its purpose is to advance narrow nationalism. It refuses to contemplate that the island might be shared on any basis other than that envisioned by nationalists.

Not only has Dublin still failed to answer the questions posed by Prof Beckett in 1972 — never mind the many which have arisen since — but it is still set in the mindset of the 1840s when Thomas Davis penned ‘A nation once again’.

How modern, forward-looking, inclusive and progressive is that?

Samuel Morrison, Traditional Unionist, Dromore, Co Down

• Liam Kennedy: Unionists risk being seen as sulking reactionaries,’ October 28;

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