‘We must defend Union and moral values – but cannot get stuck in a timewarp’

A letter from Gregory Campbell MP:

By Letters
Thursday, 21st October 2021, 6:10 am
A man walks past a centenary mural on the Peppercorn Cafe, east Belfast
A man walks past a centenary mural on the Peppercorn Cafe, east Belfast

2021 marks both the 50th anniversary of my party, the DUP, and the 100th anniversary of Northern Ireland.

There have been a massive number of changes in both timeframes, but while there is much to commemorate looking back we must also plan for the next 50-to-100 years.

The Northern Ireland of 1921 evolved and grew over decades despite an organised Irish Nationalist campaign of boycott, whether of institutions or jobs.

Letter to the editor

The irony was that after nearly 50 years of remaining outside (supposedly to demonstrate the state’s illegitimacy), their demand on the cusp of the first 50 years of the State’s existence was that they had been shut out.

Terror took hold and there was a divided unionist response to that campaign.

There was a need for Unionism to demonstrate that it would not be broken in the face of the terror. I joined a fledgling party determined to ensure Unionism had a voice when others were silent, and would stand up when others walked away.

That terror campaign was relentless and aimed at trying to dismantle the state.

The emergence of Sinn Fein into active politics then brought the campaign into a different theatre and sought to weaken unionism once again.

The IRA slaughter sought to bring about their mythical united Ireland and loyalist paramilitary groups responded.

The paradox now is that Sinn Fein are attempting to emerge as the Republic’s largest party, in the hope that will promote an all-Ireland dynamic.

Yet the terror tactics of the past helped carve Northern Ireland into such a divided society that no radically-different outcome from what is now apparent could even be contemplated, as it would be impossible to implement in such a divided society.

The unionist outlook needs to be imaginative and forthright.

In dealing with militant Irish republicanism, there are those who would despair and abandon any tactic of confronting that failed ideology.

They have no determination to ensure the past is not re-written, while there are others who can’t (or won’t) see that the political landscape has changed and who still operate in a 1970s / 80s timewarp.

Similarly there are many of us within Unionism that hold to a moral value system that is being attacked on a regular basis. It needs defending within the changing times we all live in.

If we didn’t do that, who would?

Again there are those who want to abandon those values while there are others who demand that previous ways of upholding those values are the only way to proceed.

The former is wrong and the latter is unsustainable.

We can and must maintain those values while recognising the radically changed world we all live in.

A realistic and robust approach is what is required, we must build for the future while not allowing those who caused, or supported, much of the past to derail us.

That is why I, and my party, remain committed to a better way forward for the decades to come.

More News Letter letters and opinion at this link.

——— ———

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdowns having had a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.ukand enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry, Editor