Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

Review: three events at the Belfast Festival…

This year’s Belfast Festival at Queen’s attracted some big names to their talks programme. Here St Etienne offers his assessment on three of this year’s big setpiece events: a talk by Lord Ashdown; a panel debate on Carson’s Legacy; and the National Anthem theatre production.

Reproduced from the Liberal Democrats flickrstream

By St Etienne

Lord Ashdown

Paddy Ashdown had his chat in a packed out Elmwood Hall – first time I’d been in the place – and as you can imagine he’s a very comfortable, but comfortable speaker. Kicked off with an excerpt from his new book! about his time in Bosnia – on the one hand containing his best achievement in life and the worst the very next day. His time in Bosnia obviously deeply affected and influences him.

I’m happy to report the Donaghadee man’s greatest smile of the night came as he recounted his days as a young officer in the Royal Marines and then again when he moved on to his time as an operator in the SBS. But what was insightful in all this, as the audience watched a man who it is assumed is now away from the frontline of world affairs, was his responses to questioning. They were not the answers you associate with someone looking back at the end of their career, which while sometimes humorous – “In your time at Westminster who do you think would make the best MP?” “ME!” – also struck me as being sincerely looking to the future, the next challenge.

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Filed under: academic, events, , , ,

Robinson versus the segregationists


Reproduced with thanks to 'amboo who?'


By Unionist Lite

Peter Robinson has ruffled more than a few segregationist feathers with this speech to Castlereagh Borough Council on Friday. This is the relevant part where he explains his views on our divided education system:

“In the area of education it has been said that considerable savings could be made with the creation of a Single Education Authority.   I still hope that agreement can be reached in moving away from the five education and library boards to a single authority.  This is not a difference of principle but one of detail and I am hopeful that it can be resolved in the next period of time. However, in the meantime I believe that a simple and speedy solution to achieve savings would be to create a single education and library board under existing legislation and leave the issue of additional powers to another day.

“Moreover, I feel I have to point out that the real savings in terms of education will not be gained by simply creating a single educational administrative body but by creating a single educational system.

“For me this is not just an economic but a moral question. We cannot hope to move beyond our present community divisions while our young people are educated separately.

“Not many of you will believe that my first contribution as a speaker at a DUP conference was on the issue of integrated education – and I spoke in favour.

“If one were to suggest that Protestants and Catholics would be educated at separate Universities it would be manifestly absurd; yet we continue to tolerate the idea that at primary and secondary level our children are educated separately. I believe that future generations will scarcely believe that such division and separation was common for so long. The reality is that our education system is a benign form of apartheid, which is fundamentally damaging to our society.

“Who among us would think it acceptable that a State or Nation would educate its young people by the criteria of race with white schools or black schools?   Yet we are prepared to operate a system which separates our children almost entirely on the basis of their religion.

“As a society and administration we are not mere onlookers of this; we are participants and continue to fund schools on this basis. And then we are surprised that we continue to have a divided society.

“The limited number of Integrated schools in Northern Ireland do offer a choice but more often than not they join in the competition for funds against the other two main education sectors and in truth will never create the critical mass needed to make a real difference.

“I entirely accept that such fundamental change will not happen overnight but that is no excuse for further delay in making a start. I know that we will face difficulties in dislodging the vested interests that are so strong in this sector, but I am absolutely convinced that we must.

“I don’t in any way object to churches providing and funding schools for those who choose to use them.  What I do object to is the State providing and funding church schools.

“The transition must begin and must be carefully planned and programmed.  It may take ten years or longer to address this problem, which dates back many decades, but the real crime would be to accept the status quo for the sake of a quiet life.  The benefits of such a system are not merely financial but could play a transformative role in changing society in Northern Ireland.

“Consideration should be given to tasking a body or commission to bring forward recommendations for a staged process of integration and produce proposals to deal with some of the knotty issues such as religious education, school assembly devotions and the curriculum.  Future generations will not thank us if we fail to address this issue.”

A snapshot of the reactions…

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Filed under: academic, DUP, Education, Shared future, , ,

An opportunity to reinvent government

The below has been reposted from The Dissenter. This offers a really useful insight into Northern Ireland’s ‘Soviet style’ economy…

The posturing, positioning and indignant defiance over impending reduction in government expenditure is rife. But it is not just David Cameron who thinks Northern Ireland has a command economy that matches anything once boasted by the Soviet bloc.

In the rent-seeking economy of Northern Ireland, it is deemed politic to blame others for the withdrawal of funding across the economy.  It is also an indictment of both the poverty of aspiration and lack of imagination among the political class.

Much of  Northern Ireland government spending is decided in Whitehall, for example social security spend, or Europe, the bulk of DARD’s money pot. Much of the discussion will be placed on efficiency of Departmental administration of those funds.  The range and scope of much of health expenditure is also directed from Whitehall, though there is a great deal of scope to review how that money is managed and spent.  Similarly, education could be reviewed in the context of building and deepening academic excellence at all levels rather than political polemic. More importantly, as the political class seems increasing remote for the electorate, perhaps it is time to think how government could be devolved back to the individual. Northern Ireland government requires a total rethink.

The thinking has to start somewhere. thedissenter asked Eamonn Butler, Director of the Adam Smith Institute for some basic pointers our politicians might take on board when considering ‘cuts’ in a wider dimension. Five questions in almost as many minutes. Eamonn is keynote speaker at the Agenda NI seminar Rethinking Government on 26th October at the Grosvenor House Conference Centre, Belfast. It will be interesting to hear how the politicians, social sector and business community respond to his thinking.

It is not time to cut government in Northern Ireland: it is time to take the opportunity to reinvent government in Northern Ireland.

Eamonn Bulter is Director and co-founder of Britain’s leading free-market policy think tank, the Adam Smith Institute, and a leading author and broadcaster on economics and social issues. Westminster insiders look forward each week to his wry online commentary on politics and politicians.

via An opportunity to reinvent government. « The Dissenter.

Filed under: academic, business, economy,

Trimble on lessons from Northern Ireland

ICSR Peace and Security Summit, 1 July 2010 ( Lessons from Northern Ireland peace process — keynote address by Lord Trimble, introduced by Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada. Trimble’s central point that it is wrong-minded to extrapolate lessons from Northern Ireland as roadmaps in other unrelated and distant conflicts is raised over at the NY Daily News.

Hat-tip to Aaron Callan for spotting this and putting it on Facebook.

PS. Incidentally, when Trimble first gets to the podium he says that the title Lord Lisnagarvey is not altogether complimentary when considered in its original Gaelic. Lisnagarvey means ‘Fort of the Gamblers’.

Filed under: academic, conferences, events, UUP, ,

Can ‘middle Ulster’ find common ground with ‘middle Ireland’

Hat-tip to OConall Street & Ultonia for reproducing Arthur Aughey’s contribution to the McCluskey Summer School. Here he addresses the future of Liberal / Progressive Unionism…

Speech by Arthur Aughey

One of my old tutors, the political philosopher Bob Berki, used to argue that every political movement worth its salt needed both insight and vision.

What is the insight of liberal/progressive Unionism? It is that the Union has no security unless Catholics too can feel secure in Northern Ireland and unless there is goodwill between North and South.

What is the visionof liberal/progressive Unionism? It is that the United Kingdom remains the best arrangement for at once reconciling and transcending the enmities of the narrow ground of Ulster politics. Formerly the civilisational aspect of this was central, the idea of participation in the providential mission of the United Kingdom. Today the instrumental aspect is often cited – that Northern Ireland’s material welfare is best served by membership of the United Kingdom.

Of course, insight and vision are often coherent and consistent only within an ideological tradition. They can be sincerely subscribed to even when reality is resistant to their appeal to benevolence. In short, it remains rhetorically powerful if not practically convincing.

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Filed under: academic, Shared future

Book launch on 18.09 @ QUB

The Bookshop at Queen’s has got a new book to launch – the ‘Lost Revolution’ is a history of the Official IRA and the Worker’s Party.

The authors are Dr Brian Hanley, a Queen’s history lecturer, and Scott Miller, a journalist with the Irish Examiner. The book traces the development of republican socialism from the time of the civil rights movement.

Professor Richard English (author of ‘Armed Struggle’ and ‘Irish Freedom’), will head up the launch event which begins this Friday at 5.30pm.

The event is open invite & venue is Bookshop at Queen’s, 91 University Road, Belfast etc…

Filed under: academic

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