The idea that ‘Planters’ don’t belong here in Northern Ireland was a pretext for murder

A letter from Samuel Morrison:

By Letters
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 12:22 am
Updated Thursday, 26th May 2022, 8:28 pm
The poet John Hewitt only used the term ‘Planter’ when explaining his presence in Ulster
The poet John Hewitt only used the term ‘Planter’ when explaining his presence in Ulster

Congressman Neal thinks it’s acceptable to refer to people as planters.

Leaving aside the supreme irony of anyone who proudly talks about themselves as an Irish American employing such a term, it’s worth considering he is implying.

It suggests that people have no right to be here, that they are ‘other’, blow-ins and outsiders.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Letter to the editor

If such a term was employed about ethnic minorities there would be an outcry.

Let’s not forget too that the idea that some people don’t belong here because they are ‘Planters’ was a pretext for murder and forcing families off land they had worked for generations.

Just ask the families of Emily and Thomas Bullock or Thomas (Johnny) Fletcher from Co Fermanagh.

I doubt if tales of the heroics which resulted in those individuals ending in early graves are often regaled in Irish bars on the other side of the pond.

I recall that when Matthew O’Toole employed the term ‘Planter’ some years ago the great and the good sought to patronise Protestants who objected by pointing out that Mr O’Toole was quoting one of our own, John Hewitt.

First of all, I don’t believe Congressman Neal reads Hewitt.

Secondly, I wouldn’t give him a pass even if he did.

In ‘Once Alien Here’ Hewitt talks about Ulster in a way which sums up my feelings about here more eloquently than anything else I’ve ever read.

When it comes to that poem, as with many of Hewitt’s poems about his heritage, one of the most important questions to ask is who is the audience he is writing for?

The obvious, inescapable answer is that he is answering someone questioning his right to live in Northern Ireland. And that’s my core issue with someone citing Hewitt as a pretext for using the word ‘Planter’.

He only used the term when explaining his presence in Ulster. I don’t need to explain my presence here to anyone.

Those who employ the term ‘Planter’ betray where they see the place of Ulster Protestants in the future of Northern Ireland — people who should shut up and accept whatever is put upon them or, alternatively, get on the boat back ‘home’.

Congressman Neal may regard me as a Planter but as Hewitt eloquently puts it ‘I because of all the buried men / in Ulster clay, because of rock and glen / and mist and quality of air’ have a right to be here.

Samuel Morrison, TUV, Dromore, Co Down

• Other comment articles:

• Editorial May 25: Unionists should make clear that they have a distinct stance on legacy of terror

• Jim Allister May 17: Boris Johnson flew into NI with weak message on the protocol

• Ruth Dudley Edwards May 17: Thank you Lithuania for pursuing Omagh bomber