We southern Protestants are respected in Ireland

The old railway viaduct at Newport, Co Mayo
The old railway viaduct at Newport, Co Mayo

Robert Wallace writes grimly of the welcome that would await Protestants in a united Ireland (‘Protestants have no place in Irish utopia,’ April 9).

He cites examples of all sorts of provocative Sinn Fein posturing in Northern Ireland as evidence of the kind of mentality that Irish people as a whole would have towards unionists, and alludes to the treatment of us southern Protestants since 1921 as proof of a cold and cheerless 32 county future.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

Apparently, some unionist politicians are feeling moved to say whether they would or would not stay in the six counties if the island was a unified political entity again.

I am an active member of the Church of Ireland. I don’t like Sinn Fein in the slightest. I can’t think of any of my friends or neighbours in Co. Mayo who like Sinn Fein either.

I feel no stigma about being who I am where I live. On the contrary, the state provides plenty of financial support both to my church and for my children’s schooling to enable me to sustain my tradition amongst the small group of Protestants around where I live. We are respected for the contribution we make to our community; the country market is full of our cakes and jams; the local heritage committees are steered by members of our congregation; we’re active on environmental matters and tidy town initiatives.

We raise money for the local hospice and work behind the bar in our local rugby club. We are entirely integrated into our wider community, but we’re still different and quietly proud of that difference if we allow ourselves that indulgence. In no way, in the Ireland of 2018, are we a put upon and discriminated minority.

Over the last 20 years we’ve had an increasing number of Northerners come and join us on a Sunday at our church as they explore our part of the world, often for the first time.

This is wonderful, and may that trend continue. Their welcome contribution at the collection plate though is dwarfed by the annual amount we receive from the local Catholic parish who remain grateful for the welcome they have received over the years when they have borrowed our building for Mass when their own church was being restored. The past is the past.

If we are to debate the pros and cons of a united Ireland, let’s talk about comparative tax rates, waiting lists for health care, quality of education, support for farming communities, the failure of the Irish language to gain widespread traction in the Irish population a century after independence, stuff that is worth debating because these things are actually important and instructive, but don’t make fear of the consequences of religious affiliation an excuse for not considering the future.

There may be very good reasons for ye in the North to want to stay part of the UK, but being a Protestant isn’t one of them.

Julian Ellison, Newport, Co Mayo