‘An Open Letter to President Higgins’ by Eddie Whyte

bilde
(Eddie Whyte was born, bred and buttered in north Belfast. He now lives in Norway where he is an elected officer on the national executive of the country’s largest trade union.) 
Like many others, I was terribly disappointed to read that you had withdrawn from the Council event at Belfast city hall commemorating the Easter Rising. Online media reports are saying that your decision was motivated by so-called “democratic” unionists who declined invitations to the event. In that light, your advisers felt your attendance would be controversial. Might I offer a piece of advice? Bowing to intolerance is not the way to build an inclusive society.

Did you stop to consider the feelings of the people of Belfast who regard you as their President? Those citizens of Ireland who were left behind after partition and condemned to endure decades of state controlled sectarian discrimination and forced emigration but nevertheless maintained their sense of nationhood. Those same people would have been delighted to see the President of Ireland at Belfast City Hall for the Centennial.

Belfast contributed in no small part to the Easter Rising. Charlie Monahan from Short Strand was the first Volunteer to die in Easter Week. Two of the seven signatories, James Connolly and Seán Mac Diarmada had strong connections having lived in the town for many years. The same is true of two of the most prominent women to take part in the Rising – Winifred Carney and Margaret Skinnider.

Your withdrawal from the city council event which was to honour the sacrifice of just such people reflects poorly on the office of President of the nation. It will forever be a stain on your period in office. Perhaps the most important part of the Proclamation which the Irish Diaspora all over the world is currently celebrating is the promise to cherish all the children of the nation equally. Does it not apply to the citizens of Ireland’s second city?

In these days of an ever enduring and yet fragile peace process we badly need a leadership that will lead by example. Ireland is not well served by a servile Dublin government or a head of state who deems it appropriate to deliberately snub an inclusive event in order to pacify the more mean spirited and less inclusive politicians beating the sectarian drum in the run up to the elections on May 5th.

Perhaps in this centennial year it is time the government in Dublin started to acknowledge the responsibility, and indeed, the debt of gratitude it has to Irish citizens in the north rather than cow-towing to the ungraceful bluster of the ne’ersayers who claim allegiance to another state?

Yours Sincerely
Eddie Whyte

56 Responses to ‘An Open Letter to President Higgins’ by Eddie Whyte

  1. Sherdy April 2, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    Well said, Eddie, but I hope your missive elicits more response than mine did.
    On the day of Michael D’s coitus interruptus I e-mailed him and inside a few minutes got an automated do-not-reply reply.
    First the man who is supposedly our president, insults half of the people in these six counties by bowing to unionist intransigence, then he totally ignores all the people who try to get in touch to express their feelings.
    Thanks, Mickey D, you have shafted us – again!

    • Eddie April 2, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

      Thanks folks! It does state clearly on the Presidents webpage that no acknowledgements will be made on social media – part of the reason I chose to write an old fashioned letter 🙂

      • Ryan April 2, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

        Fantastic Letter Eddie, lets hope you get a response but something tells me you wont….

        We, of course, often hear of the Irish diaspora in the USA, Australia, Britain, Canada, etc but its great to hear of Irish men in places like Norway not forgetting their roots!

    • Edmond J. O'Neill April 6, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

      Well done Eddie. Right on point. So many in the 26 Counties are guilt-ridden believing that they owe an enormous debt of gratitude for partition, and feel that by President Higgins acting like a Quisling, that somehow “they will like us” more in our “sensitivity.” The entire 26th Counties History of “observance” of 1916 is an uncomfortableness and walk back from Rebellion and Revolution, especially lately now that the world is caught up in the “War Against Terror. President Higgins might be reminded that the Heros of 1916, of the successors who reject the Occupier are NOT ISIS, or Al-Queada. The Republicans of 1916, 1972, or 2016 never fired a shot in Anger for any creed, any conquest of territory, save their own land and people. To be embarrassed is the ultimate disrespect for all who gave their lives for Ireland, especially during Eater week 1916.

      • jessica April 7, 2016 at 6:24 am #

        “Well done Eddie. Right on point. So many in the 26 Counties are guilt-ridden believing that they owe an enormous debt of gratitude for partition, and feel that by President Higgins acting like a Quisling, that somehow “they will like us” more in our “sensitivity.” ”

        From what I have seen and hear recently Edmond, not too many in the 26 Counties are guilt-ridden.

        As for acting like a Quisling, that somehow “they will like us” more in our “sensitivity.” I don’t believe this either. There has been a greater betrayal than I believe the public are even aware off.

        Britain doesn’t hand over 7 billion pounds for a friend in need and net get something back for themselves. They just don’t operate that way.
        MI5 have a better intelligence gathering setup in the south than they do in the north.

        “The Republicans of 1916, 1972, or 2016 never fired a shot in Anger for any creed, any conquest of territory, save their own land and people. To be embarrassed is the ultimate disrespect for all who gave their lives for Ireland, especially during Eater week 1916.”

        It is not embarrassment of the actions of Republicans of 1916, 1972, or 2016, it is embarrassment for the actions of the republic of Ireland, its coalescence with British intelligence, its betrayal of Irish citizens in the north, its corrupt and discriminative policies over the Irish citizens in the south.

        I want nothing to do with the UK or the republic of Ireland.

  2. Patrick McDermott April 2, 2016 at 10:44 am #

    Excellent piece, Eddie. My sentiments exactly and I couldn’t have expressed them any better.

    • Eddie April 2, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

      Thanks Patrick!

  3. jessica April 2, 2016 at 11:00 am #

    All my life I enjoyed travelling south of the border. I always felt like I belonged and it was like breathing the free air when you crossed into the south getting away from the strife in the north.

    It was natural, a gut response.

    Over recent times, we have witnessed a betrayal of enormous proportions, the ramifications of which have not yet permeated the entirety of our island.
    But I do feel it has changed things forever.

    I will be in Dublin again today, but do not look forward to the trip.

    The feeling in my stomach has turned from release now to one of upset to be travelling south. No single person, no group of people nor any political party could have instilled such a sea change in my very being.

    In 1916, brave men and women took decisions that made an island wide opinion altering statement that changed Ireland forever.

    In 2016, less brave men and women took decisions that have made a change in opinion that I have felt to the core of my being. Whether this change of opinion will be island wide is yet to be seen, but I fear 2016 has undone the work of 1916 and they have achieved the seemingly impossible.

    The true and real partition of our nation and it will not now be easily undone.

    • Eddie April 2, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

      I understand your frustration Jessica but I console myself with the fact as they are in my little world – Ireland will always Ireland and the Irish Nation is much more than corrupted politicians or artificial statelets.

      • jessica April 3, 2016 at 11:10 am #

        “I understand your frustration Jessica but I console myself with the fact as they are in my little world – Ireland will always Ireland and the Irish Nation is much more than corrupted politicians or artificial statelets.”

        But what exactly is the Irish nation Eddie?

        My last blog about the Irish nation, resulted in many opinions, to Harry it is like choosing what you what for breakfast, not bound by territory and fluid.

        I got the feeling most people were against associating nationhood with territory.

        To me, I am part of the Irish nation, it is bound by territory, the island of Ireland and it is an alienable right which cannot be eroded by any country or state.

    • Ryan April 2, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

      Keep your chin up Jessica! Remember there’s a lot more people in the South that hold your political beliefs than those that oppose them.

      • jessica April 3, 2016 at 11:29 am #

        “Keep your chin up Jessica! Remember there’s a lot more people in the South that hold your political beliefs than those that oppose them.”

        I used to believe that also Ryan.
        I am not so sure anymore.
        If it is true, now is the time to speak up.

  4. Wolfe tone April 2, 2016 at 11:25 am #

    The sooner a referendum on unification happens the better. Win,lose or draw all those people who call themselves Irish will have to show their hand especially the politicians,church etc. If they tip toe around the subject and sit on the fence and unification is rejected then at the very least the likes of Higgins will wear a red face when he visits countries in South America etc praising them for struggles for independence for example.
    A rejection of unification will wipe the grin of those who scoffed and laughed at the Scottish 2 yrs ago. It’s time these chancers were made to put up or shut up and all the world can witness it. For too long now the gombeens have been allowed to pretend. And before anyone asks why is does it matter what the rest of the world thinks, just take a look at social media. There’s lots of ‘irish’ on it who yearn for praise and respect from others around the world. Yes a decision can simply be down to what others think of them.
    Can you imagine if an Taoiseach of the free state stated he didn’t want unification yet? Tragic and pathetic it may be but hilarious all the same. Bring it on.

    • jessica April 3, 2016 at 11:18 am #

      “A rejection of unification will wipe the grin of those who scoffed and laughed at the Scottish 2 yrs ago. It’s time these chancers were made to put up or shut up and all the world can witness it. For too long now the gombeens have been allowed to pretend. ”

      I couldn’t agree more WT.

      We need to know if we are deluding ourselves over a united Ireland and if so, we need to look at alternative options.

      I hope the Irish people would come together, but if that is not what a majority want purely over selfish economic reasons, then there are other ways to skin a cat.

  5. Seán Mór April 2, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    Well expressed. Feeling badly let down. The let down is even greater when it looks as if the unionists were largely indifferent to his attendance. He says it’s to avoid ‘political controversy’. Not turning up, especially when there’s no major opposition (just non-participation), has actually attracted a lot more political controversy than otherwise would have been the case. But the truth is, they don’t mind this type of controversy, disappointing or letting down the nationalist people in the north always comes second to tipping the cap to those loyal to the British crown. And that is the long and short of it. No other explanation.

  6. Patrick Fahy April 2, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

    The reality hammered home once again to northern nationalists. We are on our own as far as the southern political establishment is concerned. For them, we might as well be Irish people living in Siberia. Still, we are off our knees and will eventually achieve full nationhood.

    • jessica April 3, 2016 at 11:13 am #

      “The reality hammered home once again to northern nationalists. We are on our own as far as the southern political establishment is concerned. For them, we might as well be Irish people living in Siberia. Still, we are off our knees and will eventually achieve full nationhood.”

      That is how I feel also Patrick.

      It will depend on whether there will be change in the south as to whether full nationhood is achieved and that is beyond our control.

      It is time for the south to choose sides.

  7. Gerry O'Toole April 2, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

    Well said Eddie.

  8. fiosrach April 2, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    I wonder will he be invited to any of the events celebrating the success of the treacherous and traitorous blackmail by the colonists. And more interesting, will he come?

  9. Iolar April 2, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

    There is eloquence in the silence of the President. He has earned respect and admiration throughout the world. He remains passionate about the abuse of Human Rights. He is a statesman with deep respect for human dignity and cultural diversity. The President wishes to promote peace, prosperity and inclusivity in a deeply divided country. His actions speak louder than words.

  10. V L April 2, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

    Eloquently put. Perhaps you could write another one to all the political parties asking why not one single word was uttered over the ‘2016 commemorations’ to even start a debate re re-unification, bowing to intolerance and intransigence once again.

    • jessica April 3, 2016 at 11:24 am #

      “Eloquently put. Perhaps you could write another one to all the political parties asking why not one single word was uttered over the ‘2016 commemorations’ to even start a debate re re-unification, bowing to intolerance and intransigence once again.”

      That is not true, Sinn Fein have been trying for years to get kick start this debate and their calls for a border poll have been rejected for the last 4 years now.

      Unless all parties get on board with this debate, the media will ensure it is not given a fair hearing.

      Is Sinn Fein the only republican party in Ireland? I recall Fianna Fail proudly announcing that they were THE republican party. Clearly them mean a 26 county republican party. They can no longer sit on the fence and avoid the constitutional question.

  11. Eddie April 2, 2016 at 4:11 pm #

    Iolar – there is no dignity in deserting your own citizens. Allowing yourself to be steered by intolerance is not the key to respect for diversty.

    • Iolar April 2, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

      I remain to be convinced that the President is steered by intolerance and intransigence given his comments about the, “supremacist and militarist imperialism” of Britain and the fact that imperialism has not been reviewed with “the same fault-finding edge”, regularly applied to Republicanism. The President added,

      “In the context of 1916, this imperial triumphalism can be traced, for example, in the language of the (British Army) recruitment campaigns of the time, which evoked mythology, masculinity and religion, and glorified the Irish blood as having ‘reddened the earth of every continent’.”

      “Indeed, while the long shadow cast by what has been called ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland has led to a scrutiny of the Irish Republican tradition of ‘physical violence’, a similar review of supremacist and militarist imperialism remains to be fully achieved.”

      I stopped counting the number of times the words, “violent, dissident, republican violence” have been uttered by various commentators just this week. Didn’t someone else say,

      “They think that they have purchased half of us, and intimidated the other half…”

      Elements in the media may be purchased, again I suspect that the figure is not as high as 50% and most purchases are made in the buy one get one free bargain basement. It is not a bargain when something is not needed or required.

    • MT April 2, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

      How has he deserted his own citizens?

  12. sooty April 2, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

    lolar,

    Sorry, but you couldn’t be more wrong,There is no Eloquence in the silence of Michael D, especially if you live in North. It would’ve been fitting and the right thing to do to Visit Belfast.

    • jessica April 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm #

      A bigot can still be eloquent

  13. Paddy April 2, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    It’s a pity Mr Higgins isn’t going to the event in Belfast. I’ll take him at his word.

    http://www.richestlifestyle.com/highest-paid-political-leaders-in-the-world/2/

    ‘His actions speak louder than words’

    • billy April 2, 2016 at 10:28 pm #

      see his daughter is getting in on the action,keep it in the family lol n they want you to vote.jesus wept.

  14. alexander mckee April 2, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    as a unionist I don’t see any reason for unionists to attend as it was against everything they stood for. but I think the president of Ireland refusing on the grounds of lack of inclusiveness
    is totally wrong. i class myself as irish and I respect every persons outlook in life politics etc. whether i agree with them or not. his reason is not acceptable to the republicans / nationalists in the north, even to me. the unionists voted for the dinner to go ahead but did he really expect them to attend. maybe he didn’t want to dine with ira people, without unionists sitting with him. whatever his reasons they were wrong and he should attend even for the supporters of a 32 county.

    • jessica April 3, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

      “as a unionist I don’t see any reason for unionists to attend as it was against everything they stood for. but I think the president of Ireland refusing on the grounds of lack of inclusiveness”

      You are absolutely right alexander.

      We need to stop trying to convince unionists not to be unionists.

      The president has treated us like we are a foreign state and made a very clear political statement.

      Anyone defending him has their head deep in the sand.

      The very fact you consider yourself Irish suggests I might well have more in common with you than I would President Higgins.

      Being on opposite sides in a conflict, we are unlikely to agree but without tolerance and respect there is no hope, and the President has just shown he is capable of neither

  15. Rufus O'Riain April 2, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

    Folks, we need to change direction. I have seen the slaughter that took place in the latter part of the 80s right up to 1994s ceasefire. Hume and Adams had no choice but to try and put an end to what was going on. As a result of the troubles I lost two members of my family directly (Republicans) to the conflict. I also lost another brother indirectly as he had bad experiences in his childhood that affected him and there’s no doubt that the conflict played its part in his early demise. In my opinion we are no further forward, the bigotry is still there, and in the higher echelons of Society in the North the Unionist still holds all the aces. We are subservient to the British Govt and lack self belief on a grand scale. Our dependence on the public purse is phenomenal and we are about 60 yrs behind the South in cuteness and entrepreneurial skills. I was told once that the northern man(Nationalist) is a broken man. I agree with this. We are like the bullied child in the playground, accepting things for what they are and be content to get scraps from British Govt block grant/public expenditure year on year.

    How do we change direction? We grow, we make friends on an international level and we push ourselves harder. We need to do away with our dependence on welfare and make ourselves an economic force to be reckoned. But we cannot do this with nationalist/republican splits, we cannot do it with internal republican splits either. As long as we continue in this way our separated brethren will ensure that we are snubbed by our brothers in the south. I think that we have to show that we can be an economic success and more self sufficient, then Michael D would be only too glad to attend a city hall function.
    Our politics is tired and dated, nationalist and republican leadership must change, the same faces are staying on too long. If this doesn’t happen there is no hope!!

    • billy April 2, 2016 at 10:40 pm #

      i was once told that the northern man is a broken man.
      they havent a weapon in their imperialist armour to break an irish man who doesnt want to be broken…the blanket men h blocks.

      • jessica April 3, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

        “they havent a weapon in their imperialist armour to break an irish man who doesnt want to be broken…the blanket men h blocks.”

        They can always buy more weapons billy, what if the new weapons they purchased are from the southern state?

    • jessica April 3, 2016 at 11:51 am #

      “Hume and Adams had no choice but to try and put an end to what was going on. ”

      It was republicans led by Gerry Adams who initiated peace talks in the 80s.
      Hume was brought on board to hide the fact that the British has been negotiating with what they call “terrorists”
      Trimble was brought on later to sell it to enough unionists to get the GFA rubber stamped.

      We don’t even know the truth about how peace came about. The GFA is built upon lies and deceit albeit some would say for the greater good.
      I could also turn a blind eye if it weren’t for the media and state propaganda and vilification of republicans.
      The same republicans who created peace and who’s biggest regret was it took so long to convince the British of their sincerity.

      “We are subservient to the British Govt and lack self belief on a grand scale. Our dependence on the public purse is phenomenal and we are about 60 yrs behind the South in cuteness and entrepreneurial skills. ”

      Absolute rubbish. Per head of population in particular within the catholic / nationalist community our entrepreneurial skills exceed that of the south. Any wonder we feel subservient.

      “I was told once that the northern man(Nationalist) is a broken man. I agree with this.
      We are like the bullied child in the playground, accepting things for what they are and be content to get scraps from British Govt block grant/public expenditure year on year. ”

      I am not broken and I am sure the people I employee would not want me to be broken.

      “How do we change direction? We grow, we make friends on an international level and we push ourselves harder. We need to do away with our dependence on welfare and make ourselves an economic force to be reckoned. But we cannot do this with nationalist/republican splits, we cannot do it with internal republican splits either. As long as we continue in this way our separated brethren will ensure that we are snubbed by our brothers in the south. I think that we have to show that we can be an economic success and more self sufficient, then Michael D would be only too glad to attend a city hall function.”

      Exactly what sickens me about the attitude in the south though I dislike the use of the word brethren.

      I am absolutely certain the north could be the wealthiest part of Ireland.

      I refuse to be treated like an inferior society who need to prove our decency and efficiency to be considered worthy to join with the southern elite.

      The conflict in the north was never a 6 county problem, it was an Irish problem which impacted greater within the occupied territory, for the very reason that it remains occupied by a foreign militaristic presence.

      If the south having experienced peace and prosperity choose to wash their hands off us rather than support us, then so be it. But I want them to tell us to our faces.

      • MT April 3, 2016 at 12:48 pm #

        “We don’t even know the truth about how peace came about.”

        It came about when the Provos gave up their terror campaign and the loyalists followed suit.

        “The same republicans who created peace”

        They wouldn’t have needed to create peace if they hadn’t been out murdering and terrorising.

        • jessica April 3, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

          “We don’t even know the truth about how peace came about.”
          It came about when the Provos gave up their terror campaign and the loyalists followed suit. ”

          You have just proven my point MT.

          • MT April 3, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

            “You have just proven my point MT”

            What point?

  16. KoppabergCentral April 2, 2016 at 6:04 pm #

    Why dig at the DUP? Everyone knew they wouldn’t be going and if President Higgins had bothered to turn up, not a word would be said about their non attendance. But now because he’s not coming everyone wants to chuck their toys out of the pram. Maybe he wasn’t relishing going up North anyway and the DUP were his ideal get out of jail free card.

  17. MT April 2, 2016 at 6:04 pm #

    Isn’t the president supposed to be apolitical?

  18. Bernie McGlynn April 2, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    Well said Eddie, disgraceful decision from the President.

  19. Paul April 2, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    Absolutely agree with Eddie well said.

  20. ben madigan April 2, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

    have re-blogged this post and eddie’s letter – well done eddie

    can I ask and even encourage readers, posters and supporters to write a letter to president higgins over his decision? And maybe pass word along to friends, relatives, the diaspora and so on, suggesting they do the same? sackfuls of letters may make a greater impression https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/letter-writing-campaign-to-the-president-of-ireland/

  21. pearsemcaleer April 2, 2016 at 8:07 pm #

    any reponse from the leadership on the president decision not to attend civic dinner

    • billy April 2, 2016 at 10:45 pm #

      any response of eddie on the 50p pay rise

  22. Pointis April 2, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

    Well done Eddie.

    You really summed up the feelings of a large number of people here who really feel the President epitomises the attitude of Many in the Southern establishment who coalesce with the bigotry which prevailes here.

  23. Brent Clements April 3, 2016 at 3:02 am #

    As a Catholic from the loyalist sectarian town of larne expressing any irish culture at the very least resulted in a death threat. I no longer live there but the president should of came. The wider question irish nationalists and republicans should ask themselves why do Sinn Fein sit in power with this party the dup.

  24. patricia April 3, 2016 at 10:59 am #

    A great letter from Eddie. I would suggest that the president does attend to respect the nationalist people and those sectarian dup members who do not attend well, bring in all the homeless people to be given their places at the tables. We do not need to pander to a party on the basis of inclusiveness when they the last thing in the world they want is to be icluded with Irsh Nationalism.

  25. TheHist April 3, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

    Out of interest, was the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny (well, the caretaker) invited to this civic dinner? Any British diplomats invited?

  26. KoppabergCentral April 3, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    As Alexander McKee states, why would Unionists want to attend a dinner that commemorates a Rising that Republicans used and took inspiration from, for killing members of the Unionist community? Thank you Mr Republican for killing members of the community and using the Rising as moral justification. Chin chin! To paraphrase Brookborough, many Republicans have openly stated they wouldn’t want a Unionist about the place and Unionists, in return, would be only too willing to oblige.

  27. GerryH April 3, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

    Should have stood up to be counted – Ich bin ein Berliner

  28. p keane April 4, 2016 at 6:27 am #

    looking from here we feel a similar alienation from the east coast establishment And there is huge power imbalance and disengagement from the political world.Why is there such an increase in independent TDs (Healy Rae’s etc) and it is heartening to see passion at least occasionally in issues like the turf cutting protests.So hang in there fellow citizens up north the rumblings of discontent are gathering pace all over.Regards from the only part of Ireland with a real border ;the Shannon.

  29. Barry Lynch April 4, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    This a an interesting view on the North/South divide and yet more proof that we’re on our own up here.

    http://www.derryjournal.com/news/columnists/brolly-s-bites-north-men-south-men-comrades-all-my-arse-1-3674549

  30. taimin bairneach April 4, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

    De var ikke Michael D som kunne ikke reise til Belfast.Andre personer uavhengig av President fikk den avgjorelse for han

    Like · Reply · 15 hrs

  31. Kinvara April 6, 2016 at 9:12 am #

    Excellent letter, Eddie.

    You – and many Nationalists in the North – understandably may well feel let down by Michael D, our President at the refusal to attend this Dinner in Belfast, in the northern part of our country. many Nationalists in this part of the country are let down too I can assure you.
    I personally believe he would have wanted personally to go – but I believe the Government blocked it. I actually have a lot of respect for Michael D and he is an honourable man, in my opinion, unlike many politicians in this State or many other states.

    In any event, my main point is that the vast majority of people in this (26 counties) part of the country overwhelmingly support a re-United Ireland – no doubt about that. I do not have the same belief in our political class – but nonetheless, they will not hold back the tide. A Nationalist majority will come about by 2020 – and a Nationalist ELECTORAL majority by the mid-2020’s will be a major game-changer.

    A Re-United Ireland is inevitable.

  32. PJ July 5, 2016 at 6:33 pm #

    It’s interesting reading this after the vote by the UK to leave the EU and the decision by Ian Paisley Jr to suggest that constituents acquire Irish passports.

    That was an unexpected and welcome indication of flexibility about identity, hopefully the start of something new.

    My sympathies are divided between the letter’s author and the President. As southerner whose family is from the north, I believe we should avoid providing pretexts for division or appearances of partisanship. It may mean being patient. None of us wants to go back 30 years and no side can afford to do so, the UK included.

    I find it a bit rich to see quibbles about cherishing “all the children of the nation equally” — aspirational language about life chances in the territory of the republic — invoked in respect of a dinner in a part of another country in which some Irish people live.

    Make no mistake, that is the situation and has been since the Good Friday agreement.

    I would like to see a united Ireland if it means peace and happy co-existence, and would gladly welcome some incorruptible Calvinist rigour into our parliament and public life, but I have no desire to see it achieved by any means other than consent. The consent of those in the south is presumed. It shouldn’t be. Talk of betrayal is, if not insulting, unlikely to accelerate any useful result. We do not need both communities in the north looking FIRST outside for validation to larger communities they aspire to be part of and bleating when they don’t get what they want. The rest of us would them to live together and peace and harmony with each other, first and foremost.

    That said, I and suspect most would completely understand the letter; that Higgins is a wise man and would be prepared to cut him some slack. Everybody should surely be aware that there was a lot of choreography behind the Queen’s visit to Ireland, only a fraction of which was ever revealed and that her own wishes would have been secondary to those of the UK govt. It would not be unreasonable to infer that there may have been reasons other than those publicly disclosed for Higgins’ decision. Either way, his office deserves respect and somehow this letter seems more like a slap than an appeal.

    Better to extend the benefit of the doubt, and to make private remonstrations if they’re really needed. That presumes good faith. If it’s not achievable on our side how is it to be achieved across the divide?

    The moral high ground tone seems to me to be misplaced. Consider for a moment the difference between a visit from Higgins to N.I. and one of the Queen to the Republic.

    At least some in N.I. could regard the Irish President, not as a benign person whose signature they could admire on their EU passports, but as the personal embodiment of a threat to their way of life. For him to press on with a visit when people have such fears might well simply confirm them.

    The Queen, on the other hand, on a visit to Ireland was made welcome and most people, even those who have no time whatsoever for a monarchy, were very glad to see the hand of friendship and reconciliation extended. Nobody in the Republic thought for one instant, here’s the head of a foreign state whose citizens wish to assimilate us.

    Recognising such sensitivities is not according a veto to those who shouldn’t one, so much as choosing the right time and circumstances to manifest equality of esteem (a non-negotiable principle one hopes).

    Personally, I look forward to the day we have someone from the unionist tradition run for President, and win.

Leave a Reply