Wednesday, 20 November 2013

A Lost Tribe – the “British” in a corner of Ireland

01: If you look and listen, you will still sadly see and hear those tiresome old British-in-Ulster signs and cringe-worthy battle cries of a by-gone era:

For God And Ulster; no surrender!!!

Ulster Will Fight, and Ulster will be right

We Are The People, the Protestant people of Ulster...

Separatism & self-isolation

02: Looking beyond the myths they've conjured to excuse their own isolationist conduct, Census reports indicate that at the inception of their smaller British colony otherwise known as Northern Ireland the self-titled Protestant Unionist Loyalist (P.U.L) community accelerated their post-Home Rule Bill abandonment of their birthright Irish identity. Indeed, they resorted to identifying as a strictly 'British Ulster' people (this was exemplified by the infamous Larne Gun Smuggler Fred Crawford who in 1920 said: "I am ashamed to call myself an Irishman. Thank God I am not one. I am an Ulsterman, a very different breed"). Similarly, they began fabricating a warped historical narrative of being some unique and Celtic-like "Ulster-Scots" nation rather than being mostly just the offspring of English soldiers and the Anglo and anglicised of the lowlands of Scotland planted in Ireland to aid and abet British state evils against the fiercely defiant native Irish of the province of Ulster. Furthermore, NI colony state schools were henceforth heavily influenced by the pro-colonial rule anti-Catholic Orange Order. They ensured Protestant children were taught a skewed anglo-centric version of history - thus the Gaeilge language Gaelic sports and other forms of Irish culture all became alien to the vast majority of Protestant children in their apartheid-style statelet.

03: Despite their various isolationist and suppression efforts political unionism failed to distinguish the NI population from the 32 county Irish nation amongst/alongside who they live on an island and this has culminated in a psychologically damaging identity crisis within the Unionist community. It really is time Unionists accepted, the only thing which changed upon partition was that fellow Irish in the 26 counties had broken free from being ruled by a foreign British Parliament in London, England. We in the 6 north-east counties of Ulster continued to be as Irish as we were the day before partition - during the political and economic partition of Germany did its people cease to be the German nation?

Transferring Guilt

04: It is blood-boiling hypocrisy for British Unionists to cherry-pick their way through history to accuse we Irish living in our own homeland of politicising our Irish identity, Irish language and/or our indigenous sports and cultural activities. Do Unionists really need a history lesson on how a foreign British state occupied Ireland, gradually reduced by half its former 8 million population and viciously strove to impose its foreign language, its foreign culture and its (then) foreign Protestant faith upon the entire Irish nation? How dare you, how bloody dare you. Your forefathers tried to eradicate all semblance of native Irish identity and culture in Ireland. Evil. Pure British colonial evil.

05: The plain unvarnished truth is, the plantation of Ulster occurred because the native Irish of Ulster were renowned for being the most Gaelic and nonconformist of the Irish nation - we vehemently opposed the efforts of foreigners to impose upon us their alien British identity and Protestant religion. In this context, the Irish nation's present ongoing efforts to revive and promote our unique identity, language and culture are absolutely above reproach... only the ill-informed or truly evil seek to portray their victims as victimizers.

Maintaining Supremacism

06: Since the undemocratic creation of the Northern Ireland colony statelet its majority Unionist community chose to elect politicians whom still endlessly engage in shameless acts of bigotry upon bigotry, upon bigotry and racism upon racism toward Irish Catholics. These same majority Unionist political parties have remained firmly wedded to the anti-Catholic Orange Order and in recent decades also become involved with the extreme evangelical Protestant Caleb Foundation. Similarly, considerable sections of the Unionist community have for centuries engaged in endless street displays of supremacism and triumphalism, racism and bigotry toward their Irish Catholic community neighbours; this is the sum total of the 'heritage' and 'culture' Unionist political parties nowadays assert is being "eroded" - what they are in truth mis-describing are wholly justified complaints by Irish Catholics who've had enough of the repugnant supremacist bigotry by certain sections of the Unionist community.

07: Equally appalling, during more recent times certain sections of the Unionist community have aligned themselves with extreme far-right groups i.e the English Defence League, Combat 18 and the National Front, and resorted to regular racist attacks against newly arrived ethnic minority groups (see examples here, here, here, here, here, here here). This has even escalated to issuing terrorist threats referring to "drawing an orange line" around British Protestant districts. And try as the Unionist community may, they can't escape that many of these activities were either endorsed and/or never condemned by the mainstream Unionist parties they keep electing to represent them in the regional Executive at Stormont and/or in the UK Parliament in London, England i.e the suited bigots featured in the below images.

Modern Ireland

08: Elsewhere on the island of Ireland, the Irish were gradually maturing into an outward looking and self-confident 21st century nation, extending to all creeds, colours, religions and political persuasions our uniquely Irish greeting: cead mile fáilte (a hundred thousand welcomes). Like our neighbours in England, Wales and Scotland, the Irish in Ireland have outgrown our once insular, monolithic perspective and learnt to embrace the true extent of our rich and varied ancient heritage, and all without diminishing our uniquely Irish nationhood status. In the Ireland of today, we enjoy a largely pluralist and cosmopolitan society, still uniquely Irish whilst being a welcoming new home to a myriad of enriching minority communities at ease expressing their own religious faith and/or cultural identity be they British, Indian, Chinese, Polish or other.

Un-British Unionism

09: It's time the Unionist community acknowledged and evaluated why is it a) they don't vote for mainstream British political parties and b) why do the people of Great Britain regard them as not even remotely British? I lived in England for many years (and my best and many other friends are proud English folk) and I've lost count of the occasions I've heard and read English people advise they're embarrassed by considerable elements of the Unionist community. They're disgusted some Unionists continue to elect parties who've nurtured a retarded society they absurdly contend represents modern British values; Unionist politicians steadfastly refuse to implement Great Britain's liberal abortion laws; no gay marriage or adoption provisions (plus a ban on gay men donating blood) etc; no previously agreed Bill of Rights or Irish Language Act, and; they blatantly pursue policies contrived to provide advantage to British Protestants over the poorest Irish Catholics (see paragraph 06 above for links to relevant reports)... there's nothing remotely British in nature about a great many NI colony Unionists and that's the plain truth.

Unionist Identity Crisis

10: In an article published on 29th August 2009 in the Guardian newspaper titled 'Ulster unionism's identity crisis' journalist Jason Walsh quite aptly described the Protestant Unionist/Loyalist community's predicament in the following terms:

'...a group of people who once revelled in the "glories" of empire. Stripped of its political meaning, unwanted and certainly unloved by the British, unionists have nowhere left to turn to except inward... [and thus]... have become increasingly divorced from mainstream British culture, never mind British polity...'

11: In an article published in the pro-Unionist Newsletter on 20th May 2013 titled “‘Us and them’ issues at the heart of our identity crisis” the greatly respected Unionist community columnist Alex Kane wrote:

'…Every time I hear someone (and it’s usually someone from a pro-Union background, by the way) quote John Hewitt: “I am an Ulsterman, I am British, I am Irish and I am European. Anyone who demeans any one part of me demeans me as a person” my thoughts irresistibly run towards multiple personality disorder...'

Raging With Confusion

12: Alas, the above described tortured soul exists in ever-increasing numbers within Northern Ireland's Unionist community. This is personified not least in an extremely clichéd article 'Am I Living In Ireland Or Iran' published on 04th November 2013 in the Huffington Post by Brian Spencer one of its contributors from the Protestant Unionist/Loyalist community, wherein he lashes-out:-

'…Because I'm from Northern Ireland, support the Union with Great Britain and identify myself as a cultural Protestant, I can't be a proper Irish person. That my friend is racism, jingoism and xenophobia – defined...'

Adding;

'...We need to take back what it is to be Irish from the little Irelanders... And so going forward, said Fintan O'Toole, "[A] new identity has to be positive rather than negative. But it also has to find a way to include Britishness."...'

And in a subsequent blog post Mr Spencer exposes his desire to impose his sense of identity on others, contending;

'...nationalists and republicans, by rejecting their Britishness...'

13: Reading the law graduate Mr Spencer's numerous anti Irish independence articles and related Twitter musings one gains the impression he is either confused or an extremist masquerading as a liberal. Mr Spencer et al must learn to accept, they represent a minority community in the north-east corner of Ireland and its absurd they advocate foisting a British colonial 'British-Irish nation' label on the entire 32 county Irish nation. Firstly, we Irish don't live in Britain. Secondly, the vast majority of the Irish nation has always viewed British state occupation and colonial rule over Ireland as something alien and unwelcome - the fact that NI colony Unionists find these stark truths upsetting is their problem to resolve on their own terms. In their bid to overcome their self-inflicted colonial identity crisis, Unionists like Mr Spencer strive to muddle the important differences between nation, state, citizenship and society - unlike Unionists within the NI colony state the 'Irish nation' who span both states of our island of Ireland homeland strive to offer all citizens a pluralist society in which all minority groups are free to access our native Irish culture and to express their own cultural identity be they British, Indian, Chinese, Polish or other.

Colonial Politicking

14: Notably, the above Mr Spencer fails to ever articulate what is it that makes him 'feel' Irish but if born in Ireland that would suffice. What we do though know is Mr Spencer doesn't share the majority Irish belief in the inalienable right of the Irish nation to a) unification of the nation and b) its self-determination. Instead, he supports the Irish nation being divided between two states and one being ruled by a foreign British power in London headed by a Protestant Monarch (forbidden from being or marrying a Catholic) who is head of the state church and who gifts their Protestant Bishops free seats in the House of Lords legislature.

15: If truth be told, the Colonialist Mr Spencer evidently perceives himself to be a British Unionist and Monarchist of the Protestant faith and he's quite at liberty to possess and express these preferences albeit they favour a sectarian state rooted in anti-Catholicism. Unionists like Mr Spencer can self-identify as British-Irish or whatever they so wish even though the other 26 counties of the Irish nation are no-longer occupied by the British state and the vast majority of the Irish nation feel no affinity nor allegiance toward that foreign state. Consequently, NI colony Unionists must cease imagining they've some superior right to demand the entire 32 county Irish nation must henceforth accept being known as some subordinate 'British-Irish' ethnicity within a by-gone British Empire - this Unionist minority demand is as daft as contending the English nation henceforth be known as the English-Indian nation just because England has a large ethnic Indian community stretching back many generations.

16: NI Unionists must come to terms with the reality, they aren't the only Protestant community on the island of Ireland; there's a considerable Protestant constituent throughout the other 26 counties whom regard themselves as solely Irish and have no allegiance to the British state. Nowadays, though the Christian denominations of Catholicism and Protestantism remain our largest religious communities no particular faith has a superior position within the Irish nation. By contrast, Protestantism remains the obligatory faith for the head of state of the British state. Thankfully, today's Irish nation no-longer feel a need to view the Catholic church as our communal equivalent of an underground governing body holding together our once impoverished and beleaguered nation under constant attack from a foreign British Protestant colonial power. And there are many 26 county and 6 county Protestants able to attest to the fact their religion or sense of national identity were irrelevant to them accessing the Gaeilge language, sports and other Irish cultural activities. Indeed, the 'Protestant Only' Orange Order fraternity (and the considerable intertwined P.U.L band fraternity) has generally been welcomed within Irish society to the extent it has in other countries where it exists in lesser numbers. That said, this intertwined Protestant fraternity still has work to do to eradicate the now thankfully few but nonetheless outrageous and divisive street displays of racism and bigotry toward their Irish Catholic neighbours during so-called "religious and cultural" parades.

Our Shared Heritage

17: If truth be told, during the period 400-550BC - long before the British Empire existed, ancient Irish clans and Irish missionaries migrated and built large settlements and learning centres across Scotland, Wales and in England from Northumberland to Cornwall. Despite these heritage facts, the Irish do not contend that these nations ought to de facto be known as essentially the Irish-Scots, Irish-Welsh and Irish-English nations. Instead, we respect the unique national identity of the English, Scots and Welsh are as absolute and inviolate as our own. Alas the attitude of NI colony Unionists/Colonialists is "respect what's British in Ireland but change what's Irish in Ireland" - that is their version of a supposed 'shared future' strategy.

Irish are Irish

18: The people of today's Ireland remain both conscious and accepting of our own experiences of historical settlements and invasions by various foreign peoples, all of whom influenced and were assimilated into the Irish nation that exists today - the only settlers who haven't assimilated into the 'Irish nation' are those who self-identity as 'British only' and/or 'Northern Irish' and pledge allegiance to a foreign parliament in London England. That said, the Irish nation on the island of Ireland is similarly mindful its present-day diaspora across Great Britain constitute one of its largest ethnic communities and that the English, Scottish and Welsh diaspora on the island of Ireland represent some of our largest ethnic communities. Our peoples have for a long time acknowledged we share a common neighbourly bond due to a range of ancient and modern reasons but none of these undermine the individuality of our nations. That being the case, it's imperative the NI colony Unionist community take cognisance of the fact and respect that the Irish nation on the island of Ireland is a unique nation in its own right which long ago outgrew silly and demeaning old notions it must assume the role of some subordinate ethnic group within a by-gone British Empire. Furthermore, we are not merely some Celtic-Irish, Viking-Irish, Gael-Irish, Anglo-Irish or Scots-Irish immigrant peoples but simply the Irish nation. And hence NI colony Unionists must cease trying to conflate a single element of our heritage with our unique 'Irish nationhood' status. I repeat; we are the Irish nation!!! And Unionists on the island of Ireland (considerable in the north and very rare in the south) must accept their view of what it means to be British, British-Irish and/or the British colonial hybrid Northern Irish are all driven by a minority political Union ideology which is contrary to the fundamental binding principles of the 32 county Irish nation and indeed of every nation on planet earth; we the Irish nation assert our right to be united as one and to rule ourselves.

19: What it means to be Irish isn't like some trendy designer label to be worn in a social setting nor a preference for some particular political doctrine, religious ideology or a choice between home-grown/native Irish culture verses affinity with the culture of other nations. My sense of being Irish isn't even founded on my birthright entitlement to an Irish Passport or even my right to stand for the post of President of Ireland. The essence of my identity transcends all the basic elements of a functioning lifestyle and state and is embedded in the very core of my being; to be united as one nation and free to rule ourselves; to belong to a unique and wonderful nation who call our beautiful homeland "Mother Ireland" and to want for the whole of her island nation all those basic democratic rights and earthly enjoyments you likely want for yourself and your family i.e f-r-e-e-d-o-m... then and only then are you truly Irish.

A Journey Home

20: To Unionists in Ireland's province of Ulster I say, your ancient forefathers called themselves Irish because they were Irish. But, eversince the pro-British oath bound Orange Order was formed to oppose the United Irishmen (mostly Irish Protestants who opposed foreign British colonial rule from London England), your community were duped into identifying 'Irish' with 'Catholic only' and taught to hate both. This terrible NI Protestant community identity crisis must internally and with urgency be robustly confronted as it's fast becoming thee greatest impediment to cementing positive relations rebuilt in recent times between the Irish nation as a whole and the peoples of Great Britain and our respective Governments. I confess it makes no sense to me but it's fine if you want to self-identify as 'British only' or 'British-Irish'. But, still, you must refrain from trying to impose your personal identity choice on the majority Irish nation as we view it as deeply insulting.

21: If minded to indulge in some long overdue rational self analysis the NI Protestant community might wish to pose to themselves this simple question; if the nation(al) identity of the citizens of the United Kingdom are English, Welsh and Scottish but NI Protestants are none of these, what's your unique national identity? In my humble opinion, it's time the current generation of NI Protestants obliged themselves to decide whether after several centuries they're truly Irish or whether they've cogent reasons for still somehow perceiving themselves to be some dwindling, half-named ethnic and political fringe community existing in a perpetual state of siege in the north-east corner of the island of Ireland. To the outside world, the Irish in Ireland are in our native homeland whereas the British in Ireland are in their colony.

It's time, the "lost tribe" found themselves.

15 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your excellent new blog!

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  2. Ditto! Happy blogging :)

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  3. A suggestive blog. The problem of course is that Irishness became a battleground in the 19th century. Increasingly nationhood in Ireland became Catholic, nationalist, and separatist. Prior to that the 'Lost Tribe' wasn't so lost and happily called itself Irish; some of its members spoke Irish and collected and saved Irish language text; and Orangemen happily called Derry Derry. But then identity became a battleground and with partition the seemingly adamantine divide between 'Irish' and 'British' emerged. This is, I suppose, because your 'Lost Tribe' lost the battle to keep the Irish within the UK. they lost the battle over Irish identity in the process. Then result was the rise of a smaller-island Britishness. I can see no in principle reason why Irishness but history's course has gone against it ... Enjoyed the blog. It made me think.

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    1. I omitted to mention, I don't buy into pro-British 'separatist' label as it wrongly implies the Irish nation isn't a nation in its our own right... we are and in time we will be reunited as one :-)

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  4. this is ur 1st blog? congrats

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  5. Excellent article and very well written. This issue is so complex it is hard to unravel all the tentacles, for want of a better expression. I struggle to understand how blind the union jack waving orange order can not see that this game they play is nearing the end of extra time. Ireland can be their country if only they start accepting others. Their leaders could do a better job but I feel they cling to the old slogans to remain in their little constituency to be voted in again. I look forward to the day of unification. It was a crime the british government allowed the 6 county partition to allow the few to keep their privileged position.

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  6. Very enlightening another good blog. Its good to learn about irish past history. We are a river flowing we wont stop

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  7. Great detail, great pics - maith thú, Ruaidri....We are not worthy ;)

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  8. Fantastic piece of writing. Superb points well structured and explained. I have very little if anything to disagree with you on. (which won't help my reputation as a supporter of the union!!)

    I am unfortunately ignorant of a great many things in this islands past, I had primary education in deepest east belfast at a protestant school, then moved to england. in neither of these education systems did i learn an iota of real "local" history, I learned of the ulster plantation from my girlfriend, I learned what the easter rising was from a visit to kilmainham jail...i know nothing. I'm getting there slowly, but excuse my ignorance please.

    From what I do know though, my opinion is thus.

    No peace or future is there in reuniting the 32 counties, the unionist element in the north will be as enraged and violently objective as the nationalists have been since the advent of the troubles...I don't think too many people can disagree that this would happen. So a 32 county Ireland would not solve anything, it would appease an element who have been unhappy, and it would upset an element who have had things their way. whilst there is a point to be made i'm sure of sharing around problem, it isn't a solution. So despite all that has happened on both sides (and by this I mean recent history as well as the events highlighted in your article) we are now where we are, there is no point trying to go back and change things, there is only hope for the future. It seems a simplistic argument, but for my part, Northern Ireland should do everything reasonably possible to accommodate its nationalist citizens with regards to their culture, their identity & their history, with the target of a completely inclusive "northern irish" identity. I am currently read Jonathan Powells account of the GFA discussions, and a common issue is that every time something was ceded to the nationalists, the unionists automatically felt that they needed 2 things ceded to them. Not so. If the biggest issue to northern irish unionists is the union, then an iron-clad guarantee that the 6 counties will remain as a british province is surely all that is needed...beyond that, lets make as many people as content here as possible.

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  10. It's important to not overlook the historical fact that it was an ancient Irish King, Diarmait Mac Murchada (Dermot McMurrough) of Leinster, who upon being dethroned by the High King of Ireland – Ruaidri Ua Conchobair, immediately sought assistance from the English King Henry II to regain aforesaid throne, and Henry II foolishly complied and sent Anglo-Normans led by Strongbow to assist Macmurrough in his mission.

    So the English (Anglo-Normans to be precise) were in fact invited to Ireland by King Dermot Macmurrough, and as a thank you for English (Anglo-Norman) assistance. He also gave the hand of his daughter to Strongbow in marriage (they were wed in Dublin), as well as awarding the Anglo-Normans tracts of land (colonies) in Ireland. So the English were not only invited to Ireland by a deposed Irish King, they were in effect invited to stay and interbreed with the native Irish.

    Regrettably, what began as an invitation evolved into an invasion and colonial conquest. MacMurrough is ultimately responsible for this conquest, as it was he who invited the English to Ireland. However, given the fact that England was a colonial nation, if MacMurrough had not committed his folly, no doubt the English would have come to Ireland in subsequent centuries.

    If there's one thing that is obvious form observing Irish historicity, it's the unavoidable conclusion that it would have been much better for all concerned if Britain had never set foot in Ireland. Our present day problems began when the Ulster plantation was initiated under James I. This brought thousands of British colonists to the North-Eastern corner of Ireland, land was confiscated and the flight of the Gaels saw previous colonists take flight (it's important to remember that the Gaels who hailed from continental Europe were pre-BC invaders and colonists also), and a new generation of colonist acquire Irish land.

    In 1641 the native Irish staged a rebellion which lasted 10 years, during which no less than 12,000 British colonists (English and Scots planters) were slaughtered by the native Irish, and whilst Catholic priests paraded amidst the murder and mayhem with banners proclaiming "Murder Without Sin", thus blatantly encouraging the taking of settler life. Not only did this sanction of mass murder run contrary to Roman Catholic teaching, it set a very bad precedent and example for the aggrieved native Irish of future generations, who would continue to view execution of the colonist as their God given right.




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  11. Without doubt, the Ulster plantation was a huge mistake, and one which created the national, political, religious and cultural divisions in Ireland and within the six counties which we live with to this day. With 26 counties achieving home rule almost a century ago and subsequent independence, and the six Irish and Ulster counties which constitute the region of the UK known as "Northern Ireland" waiting to rejoin the other 26 to create Irish unity and full independence, the "lost tribe" are set to become even more lost and alienated as the unstoppable progression to Irish reunification accelerates.

    However, it would be unwise to attempt to impose a nationality or cultural identity upon those who have clearly rejected it, just as you can't impose Socialism and egalitarianism upon those whose political orientation is right-wing, conservative and pro-capitalist. A 32 county Democratic Socialist Republic sought by Irish Republicans shall never appeal to those of an imperialist, pro-monarchist, elitist disposition, and it should be noted that many Conservative Irish Catholics, both in the RoI and in NI, are not enthusiastic about embracing Socialism.

    As a Democratic Socialist who hails from within the Protestant community in NI and who has traditionally had a distaste for right-wing Unionism, I understand the inequalities which right-wing Unionism has generated in its own interests, and its neglect of its own working class. I also understand the identity confusion and political predicament that NI Protestants find themselves in. It's not easy for British Protestants to surrender their Unionism and British and Ulster-Scots identity and pretend that they're not the descendants of British colonists, that they weren't transported onto this island to remain loyal to the British monarchy and political institutions and in that respect have served their purpose, that they still live in a part of the UK, however greatly that territory is contested, and can thus safely regard themselves as "British" citizens, even if they do live in a controversial colony in the North-Eastern corner of Ireland.

    The components of Irish culture which constitute Irish national culture are ones which they have not grown up with or been socialised within. The Gaelic language, GAA, traditonal Irish dancing and music are mostly foreign and alien to them, and that is because the British colonist never had any real desire to embrace what was perceived as an inferior indigenous Irish culture.

    The ULs of Ulster/the 6 counties represent a challenge for Irish Republicans; continue to harshly criticise, denigrate and humiliate them, attempt to transform them into Gaelic speaking, shamrock wearing, proper Irishmen, or accept them for who and what they are. In a liberal, reunified, pluralist Ireland cultural diversity should be embraced, not rejected, even if elements within that cultural diversity are diametrical to the national ethos.

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  12. Gerry Adams, in his book "The New Ireland: A Vision for the Future" stated that Orangeism and their parades should be welcomed and tolerated in a reunified Ireland, and in line with Irish Republicanism's commitment to freedom of cultural expression, or words to that effect. Whilst Orangeism may be objectionable to a great many Irish people, those within the Orange Order are Irish citizens and their culture is as endemic and deeply interwoven into Ireland's national fabric as that of the colonial Gaels, even if they regard themselves as British, and whose loyalty is to their land of origin, not their land of birth. In a reunified, independent, Ireland which has finally achieved full freedom from British jurisdiction, the challenge for Irish Republicans is to tolerate a culture which has traditionally opposed Irish national unity and independence, and not permit age-old resentments and grievances to sully the inherent spirit of tolerance and liberalism enshrined within the tenets of classic Republicanism.

    It's easy to dismiss and denounce an entire people and their culture, however objectionable that culture may be. Seeking to understand their concerns, fears, allegiances and deeply ingrained siege mentality with a view to understanding them and accommodating them in a liberal society; that is the challenge for Irish Republicans, and the acid test of the future shall be how well Republican's can withstand the continued presence of those who defiantly consider themselves as British citizens and who cling onto their British colonial culture and identity on this island.

    Let's not allow discrimination against another national/political/religious/cultural/ethnic minority and permit history to repeat itself in a 32 county context, as that shall not be in the interests of the new Republic, nor any of its citizens.

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