Unionists debating 1916 is a step towards agreeing a common heritage
Published 09/04/2016 | 02:30
The Irish flag is green, white and orange. Not green alone. So until now, the absence of any considered unionist engagement on what the Rising and its aftermath mean has been a regrettable omission. Even if we think we know what someone is going to say, it still matters to pay attention and consider their position.
Ungracious remarks from the North's First Minister Arlene Foster about the rebels being egotistical glory-hunters don't count - name-calling is not a considered standpoint; while the Brutonist perspective fails to fit the bill because the former Taoiseach doesn't represent unionism, although what he says chimes with it. He says the fierce resistance in north-east Ulster to Home Rule, let alone an Irish Republic, was ignored in a politically irresponsible way by the Proclamation signatories and led to unnecessary bloodshed.
Consequently, I've been eager to learn what Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt might contribute when his party held an event in Dublin this week on the subject. Some sceptics thought it would never come off. Others felt it was as disrespectful as disrupting a Somme commemoration. But I believe unionists are entitled to put forward an alternative view on the Rising. It's their history, too - indeed, Mr Nesbitt suggests 1916 led directly to partition. I'm not persuaded it can be cited in isolation, since that leaves out the formation of the Ulster Volunteers in 1912, underpinned by gunrunning, when it became clear that Ulster said no to Home Rule.