More than 100 people from unionist and other backgrounds have signed a letter that reminds their “nationalist neighbours that we exist”.
The letter, which has been sent to media outlets including the News Letter (see link below), has been endorsed by a range of names from business, academia, politics and community groups.
The letter is published on the day that a group of nationalists are meeting the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to lobby him on Northern Ireland.
In December, more than 200 nationalists from spheres of daily life including arts, sport and academia had signed a letter to Mr Varadkar, to express “growing concern over the deepening nature of the ongoing political crises in the north”. They urged him to protect the rights of all citizens in the Province.
The letter today is a riposte to that approach, signed by other figures in society many of whom are pro unionist.
One of the letter organisers, Dr James Wilson, said: “The aim of this text is not only to remind our nationalist neighbours that we exist, but to challenge both them and the Dublin and also British government to join with us in pursuit of that many civic values and beliefs that we share.”
A press release about the letter said that a group of civic unionists, greens and socialists had taken part in hard but constructive talks with Sinn Fein and “civic nationalism”.
It added that in the talks they had believed they were equals in terms of “expression of rights, equalities, civil liberties”.
“It was therefore puzzling when our nationalist neighbours were to lobby Taoiseach Leo Varadkar via correspondence and not mention those with an alternative constitutional allegiance or identity who share similar or related concerns about rights, reconciliation and civil liberties.”
The letter organisers say that within 72 hours of an email last week suggesting such a letter, it had 105 signatures. They include the environmentalist John Barry, the academics John Bew and John W Foster, the sister-in-law of the late loyalist David Ervine, Linda.
Also signing are the solicitors Neil Faris and Brian Garrett, the ex-Presbyterian moderator John Dunlop, the non subscribing Rev Chris Hudson, the ex-RUC man William Matchett, the artist Brian Spencer, and the writer Brian W Walker.