The daring somersault of Comhaltas’s Ulster Council

“On mature recollection” – wasn’t that how Brian Lenihan senior phrased it, when he was trying to corkscrew his way out of something he’d said? It looks today as though the Ulster Council of Comhaltas Ceoltóiri Éireann have done a bit of mature reflection if not recollection, and have reversed their decision not to support Derry’s bid for the All-Ireland Fleadh. The claim was that they’d given a thumbs-down in the first place because of security concerns. That might have been a factor but I can’t rid my mind of another factor :  next year, Derry will also be the UK City of Culture.

Now there’s a topic of division. Which end of the title do you focus on: is it the City of Culture side, which Derry has always regarded itself as having – and with some right to do so. I know it annoys some of those living east of the Bann but pound-for-pound, Derry really is a city with more than its fair share of quality performers in the arts. So of course they’re ready to take on and beat all-comers for the title of ‘City of Culture’.  But then there’s that awkward ‘UK’ bit attached to the title. What’s in a name and all that, but if you accept a title that says you’re part of the UK, you can be seen as acquiescing in that position, affirming it or even implying you’re happy to be in that state. I’m sure you’d have to tie an Ulster Council Comhaltas member to an ant-hill and smother his/her softer bits in honey before you’d get him/her to admit that the UK thing was a factor in their original decision to shun the city on the Foyle, but you may be sure it featured prominently in their discussion. 

You can sort of see their point. If you keep on accepting UK adornments, where do you stop- when you’re a  lolling  Lord or Baroness on the padded benches of the House of Lords? On the other hand, do you cut off your nose to spite your face and reject an opportunity like the UK City of Culture title  because you’re a purist and you don’t want a speck on your immaculate nationalist garment? In fact, it’s the same dilemma that Sinn Féin are currently struggling with: they want to be in mainstream politics and quell unionist fears, while at the same time remaining true to their republican ideals. Like Comhaltas,  Sinn Féin initially went one way – no meeting or greeting of the queen when she visited the south; now Martin McGuinness has made it clear that he may well one day meet and greet Ma’am. 

Me, I’m a non-purist to the brink of impurity. I know the power of words but I’m damned if I’ll let them block my way from achieving something that’s important to me. So good for the Ulster Council and their mature recollection and good for Martin McGuinness and his second thoughts on royal encounters. With one proviso: that their second and final decision moves the cause of Irish culture and politics forward in some significant way. And that remains to be seen.

One Response to The daring somersault of Comhaltas’s Ulster Council

  1. Anonymous March 22, 2012 at 12:23 am #

    'but you may be sure it featured prominently in their discussion.'
    How exactly 'may' you be sure? Get to know some of those people before you pass judgement about what they 'may' or 'may' not have discussed. At the time I recall security concerns could be very real and it's a little upsetting that sinister insinuations are made because a group of people dare to have concerns. The political spin on this was appalling.