Identity and the late NI21 party


I was on Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh’s Talkback yesterday with Basil McCrea. I’ve always found McCrea an interesting person, if for no other reason that he appeared genuine and friendly, regardless of who he was speaking to. More of that later. The topic under discussion was James McClean’s rejection of the tag “Northern Irish”, making it clear that he was Irish, full stop.

Me too. It’s not, as one caller informed me, that I couldn’t say “I am from Northern Ireland”. I could say it all day if I thought it was worthwhile. But I don’t use the term because in the elaborate code system that we employ here, “Northern Ireland” tends to suggest that you are content within the state which was created nearly a hundred years ago at the point of a gun – in fact tens of thousands of guns. If someone wants to tell me I’m an Ulsterman, I’m happy to accept that too, providing the person makes clear that Ulster is nine counties. If they don’t, then I was born in the province-less county of Donegal.

I said this discussion sprang from James McClean and his sense of identity. In fact it springs originally from the fact that so many people ticked the ‘Northern Irish’ box in the last census, which was greedily seized on as proof positive that a lot of Catholics/Nationalists here were content to remain within the union with Britain. That’s a comforting thought for unionists; it would be interesting to see that thought tested in a referendum on the constitution. One point that William Crawley made (he has to be the prototype of active chairmen) was that to be constantly discussing one’s identity is probably an indicator that one is insecure as to what one is. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. And guess which section of our society is forever banging on about its identity? Right again, Virginia.

But to come back to Basil McCrea. After the on-air discussion, I asked him how it was that the most promising form of unionism – NI21 – was strangled at birth. Let’s say he didn’t reject the notion of a conspiracy by those who had most to lose by the creation of a truly progressive unionist party. He also assured me that there’d be information coming through in the coming months – well before the summer – which would reveal what had happened at the unhappy birth of the party and that it would exonerate him completely.

Interesting, eh?

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18 Responses to Identity and the late NI21 party

  1. neill March 31, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    Complete and utter balls anybody who has every worked with Basil knew why the party could never work so stop believing in silliness.

    Tell me exactly how was the Republic of Ireland created oh hang on by the point of a gun so no difference between our countries.

    As for James McClean he can play for the ROI all he wants will love it when he watches us in France and he sits at home complaining about how badly he was treated.

    • Jude Collins March 31, 2015 at 10:30 am #

      Oh neill – you sound as though a nerve had been touched. You’d need to be more specific about working with Basil – have you had experience of same? If so, tell all. Yes, the Republic of Ireland was born through violence.The difference was those who fought for a Republic wanted the Irish people to rule their own country; those who fought for…OK then, finally settled for – six counties within the UK threatened to…fight their own government….Mmm. Let me think about that one for a while.

    • Seán McGouran March 31, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

      The Republic of Ireland was created by way of a huge vote.
      The Westminster Government that had incited tens of thousands of Irish nationalists to fight and die “that small nations might be free”, refused to accept a democratic decision and sent in the army, (navy and air force).

    • Ryan March 31, 2015 at 5:05 pm #

      Neill, just before you get ahead of yourself in reference to the football, just remember: Your not Brazil, your Northern Ireland.

    • Antonio April 1, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

      I don’t know Basil and have never worked with him – is he impossible to work with for some reason ?

  2. Cushy Glen March 31, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    The concept of ‘Ulster’ is an interesting one. The old 6 vs 9 controversy.

    Of all the old Irish provinces Ulster was the one whose borders kept shifting throughout history. Unlike Leinster, Munster, Mide & Connaght it did not have a ‘king’ since the time of St Patrick when it ceased to be a distinct entity & split up into a a number of smaller fiefdoms. (This wasn’t Patrick’s doing)

    It was the Anglo Normans that constructed the 9 county idea & with it the county system.

    So the notion of ‘Ulster’ has to my mind no real validity wherever you draw the line. Ulster is & always has been what you want it to be for yourself.This is what comes of giving humans a geographic identity & giving this some kind of validity. It’s usually open to all kinds of interpretation & challenge.

    • moser March 31, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

      I think that’s called making it up as you go along.

  3. Iolar March 31, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    The Proclamation and products of partition

    Was the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act 1922 drafted to ensure the impartial administration of justice? Why in 2015 do some individuals need marching bands and riot police to attend church services? The words oppression, power and control spring to mind.

    Madame Guillotine remained anxious on RTÉ last night during a discussion concerning the bloody but seminal events of 1916 in Dublin. She was distinctly uncomfortable about a comparison being made with the American War of Independence (1775 – 1883) and the Easter Rising of 1916. Madame pointed out that there were Irishmen in British Uniforms and ‘rebels’. A member of the audience did point out that those who made a stand in Dublin in 1916 were standing up against oppression. Another member of the audience articulated the role played by the brave, heroic women in Cumann na mBan.

    TG4 screened reminiscences of individuals who experienced some of the worst aspects of life in the north of Ireland since 1968 last night. A father answered a knock at his front door and ended up being shot 13 times. A young woman witnessed a member of the security forces being killed in an explosion and said, “at14 years of age, I learned to hate.”

    Was NI21 strangled at birth? Is there an irrational fear of a progressive unionist party? Perhaps one should not hold one’s breath while waiting for answers from the predominantly male bastion of contemporary unionism.

  4. Sherdy March 31, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    Iolar, – ‘Irrational fear of a progressive unionist party’.
    Nothing irrational about it, in my opinion, as there must be a considerable constituency for such.
    NI21 had the prospect of gaining good support from, not only unionists who had given up on the existing parties, but taking a giant bite out of the UUP.
    Would the UUP get up to such dirty tricks to sabotage the newly formed NI21? Of course they would, but do they have such a Machiavelli in the party? Doubtful.
    When the ‘scandal’ broke I was very surprised, although I have never met Basil McCrea or John McCallister. But I had always considered them to be reasonable, though ambitious, people.
    If as Jude suggests, concrete evidence will soon emerge to completely exonerate Basil of the allegations and to indicate who may have been behind the sabotage, it would not necessarily mean the re-formation of the party.
    John obviously felt very let down by what he believed had taken place, and Basil felt very let down by the fact that John fully accepted the allegations, so trust on either side would be very difficult, if not impossible to rebuild.
    But in politics one should never say never (as Neill might) and if the party could regenerate itself, it would be a definite asset for NI politics.
    Maybe NI21 is not quite extinct – here’s hoping.

  5. Perkin Warbeck March 31, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    As today’s topic, Esteemed Blogmeister, arises out of the Republic of Eireland’s glorious 1-1 win over Poland it might not be out of order to mention the name of one of one (sic) of the visiting teams’ players: Glik.

    That would have been the visiting team from Polska.

    Now, as it right well known, glic (pronounced glik) is the leprechaun for sly. A trait normally associated with crafty and arty folk like Brer Fox / An Brathair Madra Rua. Alas, it seems to have deserted the Polska team at the very death, or indeed in fatal injury time itself.

    Result : a wonderful one-all win for Dublin over Lublin.

    None of the clued-in Free Southern Stateen soccer, oops, football media seems to have picked up on this Glik factor in this game of flicks, kicks, realpolitik and Plastic Micks. The realpolitik of course comes into play with the Granny Rule.

    This results in the likes (and we all love to like them) of dyed in the wool Gaels like Tony Cascarino, Ray ‘Hoots ! mon’ Houghton and Mark Lawrenson becoming the Pundit Nehrus of national broadcasters like RTE, Newstalk and Todayfm in DOBlin. As Dublin has been renamed in honour of our Billionaire Media Mogul.

    (A Billionaire is a multi-millionaire who is a tax-exile and so, doesn’t actually have to soil his khaks with worry over paying his Bills in his Stateen of Origin. Glik, very/ Glic, an-),

    Denis O Brien (for it is he !) also gets to bankroll yon pair of poppy-wearing Bainisteoiri, the wee MON from the north who likes to use, ahem, ,long polysyllabic words like ‘opportunistic’. while his assistant De Red Misty-eyed Roy from de Deep South,boy is known to opt for the more monosyllabic (gulp) ‘sly’.

    Linguists have often commented on the prevalence of the royal plural ‘we’ in the punditry of marquee gurus like Wee Ray, Tones and Marky (see above). As in: ‘I fink we have a great chance against the Poles but only if we play to our strengths which we have become known for as long as we have been Oirish at the end of the day,going forward. it is what, after all,what we do and what we,yes, we are aboot.’.

    It is as if, the Laddies are protesting their Oirishry too much. Not to mention justifying the obese moolah their rather skinny jeaned expertise is in receipt of, to finish on a Finnish preposition.

    Such is the regularity with which the word ‘we’ is used that there is even a medical term for it: ‘involuntary Mick-turition’. No urinal in Eireland has ever been weed upon with such relish.

    Now, there are some begrudging slow-learners of the gnationalist persuasion (who are always with us,alas) who might classify this class of carry-on under e for eejitry but as the inventor of the e-word, Dec the Neck aka Game for a Scaff Lynch of the Sindo has not deemed in to be so, it is not, so. Eeejitry with a Capital E, that is.

    Mind you, The Unionist Times features a letter today from a reader in its Aunt Sally page. In which the ant-brained reader sallies forth to bemoan the sight of the Polksa team emptying their lungs as they gave their National Anthem welly, (‘Dabrowski;s Mazurka’) while the wallies on the Republic of the Free Southern Stateen team remained tight-lipped and tongue-tied once the strained strains of ‘Amhran na bhFiann’ were struck up.

    No way would our patriotic Pats demean themselves by ‘shoving Connie around the Green’, not event to the tune of Sonny Brogan’s Mazurka itself.

    The letters’ page in TUT is known as the Aunt Sally page because it is only a matter of, erm, times before some retaliatory letter, or possibly three will be published in reply. As early, if you ken, by tomorrow, even.

    With the pissible,.oops,possible suggestion that ‘we’ are in need of a new National Tantrum. Possibly even, with Mick-turition in mind, the very suggestioon that Perkie’s inner pointer of Percy at the porcelain has long advocated: ‘Urination once Again’.

    It is all a matter,basically of identity. Of identifying the problem / prablem (if from the wee Sax) and setting aboot its wrecktification.

    One of the retaliaitaory writers in tomorrow’s TUT (remember where you read it first !) may well be the staunchest advocate of a Twenty-sax County Identity himself. None other than J. Augustine Murphy (for it is he !) Professor Emeritus of Detritus Studies in Queen’s College, on the leeside of West British windbaggery, boy.

    ‘De boy is all bottle’, as is affectionately said by shedloads of ginerations of students, ‘who never learned to put a Cork innit’.

    Indeed, the letters page of The Irish Times has been likened betimes to a double decker bus of CIE.Those omnibuses are known to reserve seats in a prominent position just inside the emergency entrance door, seats marked ‘for the infirm, the aged and the pregnant’.

    The episstles of the aged J. Augustine Murphy, a near contemporary of his aged heroine, Missus Saxe-Coburg,she of the Goth haircut, the monarch, as it happens of all she surveys in the Wee Saxe, are never less than pregnant with profound platitudes with attitude.

    Involuntary Mick-turition, indeed. It will be always with us, it seems.

    As today’s epistle,Esteemed Blogmeister, includes a nod in the direction of DOD-land (that would be DOD for Daniel O’Donell ) one begs leave to conclude with a ditto reference to that musical destination and its Polish connection,oops,its more polished connectivity..

    Now, Donegal (for ii is it ! the county we can count on, one of the curly Wee Three) is famous as the birthplace of noted fiddler Wee Hughie McMenamon before he went all posh for the dosh. And emigrated, shedding his name for shedloads of moolah, and shedding his fondness too for traditional tunes like Sonny Brogan’s Mazurka ( see above).

    Changing his name in the process to (gulp) Yehudi Menuhin and his repertoire to Beethoven’s Violin Concero in A Flat in Bonn, bee dad if not bee Jovi.

    What is not so well known is that Donegal is also the last resting place of the famous Steinway upon which the pianist/ President of Poland, Paderewski composed his illustrious concertos. In a converted stable cum music venue at the rear of a lakeside Big House in the south east of that musical county.

    Where it is known locally as Peader’s piano.

    • Paddy Everton March 31, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

      No idea what that was about Mr Warbeck (for it is you!) but I loved it!

      • Perkin Warbeck March 31, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

        Cuis athais dom, Paddy Everton, gur bhain tu ceol as. Glad you liked !

        Apologies for the literacy shortfall in the contortions of the boa constrictor prose but there is a simple explanation.It is a long time since one sat at the back of a classroom with a certain lecturer in the Q’s English at the blackboard, stick of chalk in hand, talk of Moby Dick his to command.

        Call me Ishmael Warbeck, but when one had been to the classes of one, J. Collins (for it was he !) one knew how to construct a sentence whose trajectory was as straight as a whaling harpoon that cut through the blubber. No snaky sentences with sinuous eel-like sub-clauses tolerated in that college classroom of J.Collins,.No, siree !

        Not his fault if the after-whales services of the educational establishment in q. were nil to non-existent.

        But that was in Jurassic times, 1966 actually, and one had been instilled with such a gra for the Q’s English that one hightailed it to the railings of Buckingham P. as soon as school was out and the summer hols were in. Arrived just in time (1) to see Herself and Himself being chauffeured through the gates on their royal way to perform the ceremonial opening of the World Cup at Wembley..

        One made it on shanks mare to the nearest, or rather less far TV shop window just in time (2) to see the monarch and her consort arriving at the fabled,twin towered stadium. It was the first and, mor mo dhioma,, the last time one has dead-heated with Herself.

        Up then, to Merseyside by rule of thumb, after phoning to book a ticket the day before, for collection at Poste Restante in Liverpool GPO: things really were a tad simpler in them dar days of yore.

        All to see Pele of Brazil play Eusebio of Portugal, by way of Mozambique. And no, not in Anfield but rather in Goodison Park,home of, erm, Everton.. Hopefully this minor reminiscence will compensate somewhat for the scarifying lack of clarity above, Paddy. A memorable game, in which a put-upon Pele was kicked off the pitch and an effervescent Eusebio kicked two goals and whacked another two off the crossbar.

        Those were the days when soccer was still called soccer and one had all week to look forward to watching it on Saturday Night. But now? Every night is footie night. Only the effervescent (2) Messi and the peerless Pirlo will coax a pernikety Perkie out of retirement these days.

        A Shakespeare quotation which, (gulp) J. Collins (see above) was fond of quoting, applies: ‘If all the year were playing holidays to sport would be as tedious as to work’.


        Goodluck Perkin.

    • Jude Collins March 31, 2015 at 6:21 pm #

      After struggling with some very feisty opposition, “Possibly even, with Mick-turition in mind, the very suggestioon that Perkie’s inner pointer of Percy at the porcelain has long advocated: ‘Urination once Again’” emerges as the Word-Play of the Day. Words to live by, boy, words to live by…We are once again in your debt, Perkie.

  6. paddykool March 31, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    Well Jude, my gut instinct is that the whole thing is about fear and insecurity .Of course it is.All that …..backs against the walls , men, and No Surrender until the scalps are counted.Fear and insecurity drives everything in Norneverland . Religions and weird ancient ritual practices of all sorts that are clung to like hissing , expiring,life-rafts, are all based on fear of the darkness and it’s all been bleeding into our lives here for years.
    The counting down of rosarium decades on {plastic} beads for this past four centuries, is essentially little different than raving about Gay Cakes and their effect on God .It has made a bloody {and I mean that most sincerely, folks!} mess of our social and political thoughts .It’s turned our heads inside out defending the indefensible and trying to make sweet the totally illogical.
    Why would grown men with any intellectual ability want to march down roads where they are not wanted ……. raving about religion and bibles , dressed like antiquated Morris Men ?Why ,would they want to be ruled by people from another land across the sea ,who don’t really give a damn about them and mostly think of them as a noisy irrelevance? They fear the loss of the control that sustained them but it’s essentially deserted them long ago.They just weren’t paying attention.
    .NI21 was always going to be a step too far for such a conservative and frightened grouping anyway .Alliance is attacked for similar reasons.
    There will never be reasoned thought here while people cling to illogical fears .That all said , I’m as curious as the next man to hear the inside track on the Basil Conspiracy.Let’s hear more , Neill .I’m all ears , for one .I do like a good yarn!!

    • ben madigan April 1, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

      “Fear and insecurity drives everything in Norneverland ”

      Beg to disagree Paddy –

      In my view

      The Loyal Orders’ lust for power drives everything in NI

      Try considering that as the reason for

      1) attacks on NI21 and Alliance
      2) the latest DUP/UUP pact candidates who are all members of the loyal orders
      3) DUP ‘s wilingness to swing with either Lab or Cons in the event of a hung Westminster election.
      4) permanent stalling on any progress whatsoever in Stormont

  7. RJC March 31, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

    It’s all about identity round these parts. For when our Unionist neighbours set foot on the ‘mainland’ they are considered to be as Irish as you or I. No amount of flag waving, bowler hat wearing or forelock tugging is ever going to change that. And that must rankle a little.

    It works both ways of course. Certain people in the 26 may view ‘Nordies’ as somehow less Irish than them, and some northern nationalists may attempt to overcompensate for this through a combination of Irish dancing, stout drinking and O’Neills top wearing. Although I think as the border slowly melts away, this becomes less pronounced.

    My four grandparents were born in the UK. Three in Cork and one in Leitrim. I’m pretty sure they never saw themselves as anything other than Irish. Given that my maternal grandmother had Irish as her first language, it’s hard to imagine she was anything but.

    Identity seems to be one of the issues of our times. Not just here, but across much of the world. I’ve never had much truck with defining myself by something over which I had no control, but there are many who do. I suspect that much Unionist insecurity stems from the knowledge that Northern Ireland is nowhere near as British as Finchley. And that ‘Northern Ireland’ isn’t going to last forever. I wish these people well in their search for a national identity. Being Irish isn’t such a bad thing, you know.

    • paddykool March 31, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

      Yes RJC ..It certainly simplifies your life and your thinking when you look at this island on a world map with a label “Ireland ” on it and you know you were born on that same wee rock sticking up out of the sea with water all around it…. just lying there at the very edge of Europe.

      You might look closer and see that someone has drawn wee lines on the island dividing it up into various areas and maybe even calling one of them “Northern Ireland” {or even Norneverland!}…or Tyrone , Derry , Kerry or whatever….but at base you still know that the place you were born in was still that wee rock…still Ireland , for all of that. Of course you’d call yourself an Irishman.That’s exactly what you are .It’s hard to escape that simple fact .

      It’ll be all the same when the country eventually gets around to re-unifying…maybe for a while or maybe even joining up with Wales and Scotland if it suited … or maybe even the rest of Europe {!} …you’ll still be an Irishman and everyone else on the planet will call you one…even those just across the sea in Yorkshire or Kent.

  8. Ryan March 31, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    I’m no Unionist but I have to say I like Basil McCrea and thought if he had been elected leader of the UUP then he would’ve brought it forward into progressive, 21st century politics but unfortunately the “scum of Sinn Fein” politics of ex UDR man Tom Elliot won the day, only to be replaced around a year later by the backward politics of Mike TV, Mike Nesbitt, who looks like he’s on the verge of actually destroying the UUP, merging it under the dictatorship of the DUP, thus becoming the UUP’s last ever leader.

    On the subject of identity, as i mentioned before on this blog, i have ticked the “Northern Irish” box but only because i wanted to avoid any political discussion and to make my stance appear “Neutral”. As for the Census? i didn’t get a census delivered to my house, nor did any of my family members which is strange but i can assure you i would’ve ticked the “Irish” box on that occasion and proudly so.