‘You Can Never Trust John Bull’ – by Joe McVeigh



Many people who lived through the Partition of our country had a clear view of what  the British were about when they approved of that political solution to the ‘Irish problem’. The late Fr Des Wilson of Springhill Community reminded us that the only political statement he remembered from his father; was: ”You can never trust John Bull.” His father, a Cavan man who came to work in a pub in Belfast, had lived through the War of Independence and the enforced Partitioning of Ireland by the British government which had already been decided before the Treaty was signed. They promised a Border Commission. It never happened.


The British government refused to accept the will of the people expressed in the 1918 General Election when the vast majority of the Irish people voted for Sinn Fein and for independence. The British refused to accept the wishes of the vast majority of the Irish people expressed at the ballot box on many occasions since then. In 1956 in the Westminster election,  they refused to accept the democratic wishes of the people in Fermanagh/South Tyrone and in Mid-Ulster.


In 1981, they refused to accept the result of the election of hunger striker Bobby Sands who was elected the MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone. He was allowed to die along with nine other republican prisoners by Thatcher’s Tory government.


In 2016, they refused to accept that a majority in the six counties voted to Remain in the EU. There are some who will not accept that there are people living here who have an Irish identity and who are proud of that identity and for whom the Irish language is part of their culture and identity. The Irish language is of the utmost importance to me and many others. My Irish passport is important to me. Our Irish national games are important and the Irish flag, the Tricolour is the flag that expresses that identity. For that reason I will always vote for the party or individual who I think will best protect and promote my Irish identity.


When you belong to an oppressed community your national and cultural identity becomes very important to you. That is why I voted for the Belfast Agreement in 1998 because, for the first time in my life, I felt that my identity would be recognised and honoured in law and that my native Irish language would receive equal recognition and funding from the public purse towards its promotion. It was called ‘parity of esteem’.


More than twenty five years later I find that the ‘parity of esteem’ promised in the Good Friday Agreement (1998) has not happened. Nationalists are still second class citizens. I know many people who would be afraid to put the Tricolour outside their homes the way that Unionists fly the British union Jack or the sectarian Ulster flag. There are many of us who are still afraid to express our Irish identity even though we live on the island called Ireland and were promised ‘parity of esteem’ in the Belfast Agreement of 1998.


Every year, for at least two months of the summer, unionists take over many towns and villages with British and Unionist flags. They do this irrespective of the feelings of people with an Irish identity living here. Until the coronavirus pandemic they paraded round these towns and villages with Orange marching bands. They say this is about ‘their culture’. What about our Irish culture?


In 2016, a slight majority in England voted to exit the EU and we are forced to accept that decision because, they argue, we belong to the UK. Fortunately, the officials in the European Union insisted that a Protocol would be agreed to check goods at the ports and avoid the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland. The Unionists in the DUP refused to accept this arrangement and the British refuse to uphold the Good Friday Agreement.

Of course, you can never trust John Bull or any of his representatives in No 10 Downing Street.

The British do not honour Treaties. The American Democrat administration in the House of Representatives is taking a dim view of John Bull’s cynical move in undermining the Protocol by unilaterally extending the grace period in order to appease the DUP and their paramilitary friends..


It is becoming clearer that the only way that the democratic wishes of the Irish people living in the six counties will be protected is through the holding of a border referendum as proffered in the Good Friday Agreement.


Until that happens I will continue to vote for those who will protect and promote my Irish identity–and not just my identity- but that of countless Irish citizens living in the six -counties now and the future generations of Irish citizens who will live here..

The British have never accepted the democratic wishes of the Irish people. We are going to need support from around the world to bring about a sovereign democratic republic in Ireland.


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