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'Northern Ireland'

OUR COUNTRY'S FUTURE could best be secured by way of independence. However, I differ in two ways from Ulster Nation - firstly we should have independence within Europe and secondly, I believe in independence for Northern Ireland and not for Ulster.

Northern Ireland is my country - my identity is Northern Irish. Division and ultimately conflict creeps in when many perceive themselves as being Northern Irish within the United Kingdom whilst others see themselves as Northern Irish within an All-Ireland context. Let's agree on what can unite us and not get involved with the boring British-Irish dispute which divides and brings us into conflict with one another.

I prefer 'Northern Ireland' for the name of my country because it is more neutral than the term 'Ulster'. Ulster has very strong overtones of extreme loyalism (Ulster Volunteer Force, Ulster Defence Association, Ulster Freedom Fighters and so on) and, on a less threatening scale, the Ulster Unionist Party. By calling for an Ulster nation, the independence movement is closely aligning itself with other groups with 'Ulster' in their title - at least subconsciously in the minds of our so-called Irish 'nationalist' neighbours and fellow Northern Irish citizens. The term 'Ulster' is used for an Irish province and there is an Ulster GAA team but it is largely associated with loyalism. In calling for the independence of our homeland we should steer clear of any name associations which possibly could link us closely to one of our two so-called communities.

Independence for Northern Ireland is something to which Protestants and Roman Catholics should aspire. It is not the exclusive property of one community. Independence should not mean a 'Protestant state for a Protestant people' with Roman Catholics relegated to second-class status. Independence should mean Protestants and Roman Catholics accepting and recognising one another under a common Northern Irish identity.

An independent Northern Ireland will have its own flag, anthem and institutions. This will help set aside the respective clinging to British and Irish identities. Both of these identities are undesirable to large sections of our population and actually sets our people against themselves.  After the trauma of the past thirty years our people have more in common with each other than our so-called bothers and sisters on the 'mainland' or in the south.

Protestants and Roman Catholics should stop clinging to London and Dublin. We should arise and reclaim Northern Ireland for all of our people.

Independence is a viable option and Ulster Nation is to be applauded for putting it forward as a common sense solution to our country's ills. However, I feel that, as long as 'Ulster' is included in the title, we will not attract cross-community support needed to truly reflect the views and aspirations of our people. Roman Catholics from places like Crossmaglen deserve to be included in our vision for independence.  They should not feel threatened or alienated by our cause and vision. On the contrary, they should feel comfortable and secure in the knowledge that an independent Northern Ireland is their cause. We have to get away from this 'us' and 'them' syndrome.

It is time to view ourselves as all one people with one identity within one nation. We also need to put aside our historical differences for the benefit of a harmonious future. Irish 'nationalists' are not comfortable in a British state. Ulster loyalists will not be comfortable in an all-Ireland republic.  The first 'solution' hasn't worked and the second will not work. Independence deals with the deep-rooted suspicion of both Britain and Éire by large sections of our community. Britain and Éire cannot solve our problems - they only prolong them - for they are the cause of our problems. Over three thousand people have paid the ultimate sacrifice because of our inability to get on. For their sake let's build an agreed independent Northern Ireland, one which is forward and not backward thinking.

Andy C.



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