Monday, 30 December 2019

Ulster at the Crossroads - yet again. Part Three.

Ulster Crossroads
By Willie Drennan

 Considering options at the Crossroads.

Very soon the people of Northern Ireland will have to decide which road to take: the one connected to the UK and the world beyond, or the one that remains within the EU.

A Border Poll just now however would be the same thing as a 2nd EU Referendum for the people of Northern Ireland: the notion of a Dublin-controlled united Ireland is currently not an option. Ireland is currently part and parcel of the EU Project and is essentially governed from Brussels.

A 2nd EU Referendum only makes sense once the whole of the UK has left the EU for a number of years. In the 2016 referendum the British people collectively instructed government and parliament to deliver a UK exit from the EU. If that result cannot be respected and implemented, for the whole of the UK, then democracy as we know it is denied to part of the UK.

The 2016 referendum was about deciding if the UK should Leave or Remain in the EU. It was not about deciding if parts of the UK should leave or remain in the UK.

Provision in the NI Protocol for a vote in Stormont, 5 years after Brexit for the rest of the UK, is not the same thing as a Border Poll/ 2nd Referendum. It does not provide a clear mechanism for Northern Ireland exiting the EU and being fully integrated in the UK once again.

In such circumstances where democracy has obviously failed the people of Northern Ireland it is hard to comprehend what will happen – extreme reactions to extreme actions of the ruling classes have been the norm throughout history. Notions of independence for Northern Ireland, or parts of Northern Ireland, are already being discussed in certain circles. But with no strong leadership to pull something like that off, such a doomsday scenario does not seem credible for now.

The restoration of the Stormont Assembly is hardly going to help in any way. With its unique system of mandatory coalition it has been proven to be totally dysfunctional to date. Until the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement gets revisited and Stormont goes through root and branch reform it is difficult to imagine how it could ever agree on anything. The politicians and media in Northern Ireland have been enthusiastic to get Stormont up and running again but there is little or no such enthusiasm from anyone else.

Other more positive and innovative options need to be explored. Alternative roads: different roads, need to be created and developed at the crossroads. Alternative roads leading towards economic revival and self-reliance for Northern Ireland.   

Free Ports, Free Zones and Enterprise Zones.

Ulster At The Crossroads – yet again. Part Two


 We Are Where We Are. – How did we get to the crossroads?

We need to understand our history in order to plan for our future. In the same way we need to understand how we arrived at the crossroads in order to figure out the best road to take at the crossroads.

Here are some factors not necessarily in order of importance. These are the relevant facts as I understand them.

In the 2016 EU Referendum the UK voted Leave and only 44% of Northern I Ireland voted Leave. Under the Withdrawal Agreement this now means that NI remains under EU laws and regulation while the rest of the UK endeavours to Leave. 

Due to the size of the majority Leave vote, if Northern Ireland had voted 100% to Remain, the result would be the same as above.

The Irish Border was weaponised by the EU even during the referendum campaign. Since the result the EU and Irish nationalists have constantly stated that the wishes of Northern Ireland must be respected and so must remain in the EU. Elements of the establishment in Britain now seem to accept this as well. Allowing part of the UK to remain under EU control seems to be considered by some politicos as a price worth paying.

Ulster At The Crossroads – yet again. Part One

    By Willie Drennan.
Ulster Crossroads

  Arrival at the Crossroads.

Terence O'Neill may have coined the phrase, ''Ulster is at the Crossroads” but Ulster has been at the crossroads on many occasions throughout history. It at least goes back to the time of Cuchulain, Macha and Finn McCool. But I suspect they weren't the first to have had to make decisions around their territory and how to deal with invaders. In more recent times the Gaels,Vikings, Anglo-Normans and Nazis have all had a go at captivating the territory of Ulster.

The most recent invader from beyond is of course the almighty European Union regime with its central authorities in Brussels Strasbourg and Berlin. The difference this time round is the sophistication of the invader. They have been long been strategising the taking over of territory by stealth: by manufacturing a complex system of dependency where the obedient and the devoted get suitably rewarded and the dissenters get silenced, obstructed and ridiculed. Their sophisticated scheme has been designed to take control so subtly that the native peasants don't even realise it's happening.

They have taken the time-tested strategy of divide and conquer to a whole new level. No need for even a single shot to be fired across the bow any more. And there's no place easier to divide and conquer than Northern Ireland with its already well established historic division.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Ulster-Scots Imagination.

Book of the Year goes to Tracing the Ulster-Scots Imagination by Wesley Hutchinson.

Review by Willie Drennan

The key word is imagination. Yes, Ulster-Scots do have an imagination. This is Ulster-Scots warts and all and it gets edgy enough at times. You won't find such content in the Ulster-Scots Agency pamphlets or website.

Nothing quite like this has ever been written before about this distinct, often derided and misunderstood cultural identity. The fact that author, Wesley Hutchinson, is Professor emeritus in Irish Studies at the Paris university of Sorbonne Nouvelle, suggests a heavily academic piece of work. And indeed it is to a certain extent but Hutchinson writes with a unique quirky poetic flair for a master scholar which makes it an easy and pleasing read.

His family roots are also in the Ulster-Scots culture so he writes from a vast personal knowledge on the subject to add to his highly acclaimed credentials on research and academic delivery.

By “tracing the imagination” this allows for much colourful imagery and insight. Some of the extracts from Ulster-Scots authors will pleasantly surprise those readers who have no direct experience or understanding of Ulster-Scots. Hutchinson masterfully caters for such readers and no doubt will keep them on board right to page 438 and leave them wanting more.

It's not just a recommended read for Ulster-Scots but for anyone with interest in history, cultures of the world and sociology. With cross references to other cultures Hutchinson will keep the interest of such readers.

The book provides insight into the Ulster-Scots in Ireland, Scotland and North America . This includes in-depth insight to ancient history which is rare. Narrators on Ulster-Scots usually begin with 17th Century migrations from Scotland to Ulster but Hutchinson deliberately explores in great detail the works of historians of such note as Dr Ian Adamson. Hutchinson deals extensively with the concepts of Ulster's common identity and shared space as explained in the works of Adamson: such as The Cruithin, The Ulster People and Dalaradia.

It was very sad that Ian Adamson passed away just a few days before the launch of Tracing the Ulster-Scots Imagination in Belfast in January of 2019. At the Launch there were folk from just about every social sphere and background in Northern Ireland. This Ulster-Scots event was held in the Irish Secretariat Building in Belfast. Now there's an example of imagination for you. The choice of venue would have been unexpected but demonstrates the spirit of shared space as expressed in the book.

The delving into the ancient Ulster-Scots history is only one of the important aspects of this book. To understand the distinct aspects of Ulster-Scots psyche it explores literature relating to the historic Ulster work place: from farm to factory, schools and churches, community and fraternity groups, to music and dance. It later relates all this to the Scotch Irish settlements in North America: from presidents to hillbillys.

The section on “marginal spaces” is one of my favourites. Here, the lore and mystique around the moss and the mountain is profoundly examined: where imagination for centuries has gone off into other realms. It is in the heart of the moss where the inner self has been explored and from the mountain: the wider world viewed and imagined.

The impressive aspect of Hutchinson's work is his ability to fully understand the mindsets of the writers and poets that he references. He even fully understands material I have written in the past. In particular he quotes at length from my book of 2008: Big Lang Danner, where I explored the historical and cultural links between Ulster and south-west Scotland. I am not an academic but a creative writer. No academic has previously acknowledged or paid much attention to my writings in the past. They tend to not understand me. But Hutchinson is a unique scholar in that he does understand even quirky folk like myself.

The one thing that this books perhaps glosses over, and wisely so, is the impact of the Ulster-Scots imagination on the contemporary politics. In its historic references to the Covenanters, Siege of Derry, The United Irishmen, the American Revolution and the Signing of the Ulster Covenant, lies explanation of the Ulster-Scots independent spirit, or Ulster-Scotch thranness. It has been a constant throughout history that loyalty to family, community, church, school and state has always been conditional: to allow for a healthy questioning and challenging of authority whenever deemed necessary.

To me this explains why the main Ulster-Scots areas of Northern Ireland voted to reject the EU establishment in the referendum of 2016: against all the odds. In my opinion the independent spirit or thranness of the Ulster-Scot is still very much alive: for better or for worse.

As this book is not owned or endorsed by the establishment in Northern Ireland it probably falls between the cracks and doesn't get the attention it most certainly deserves. It is for the academics, folklorists, and just about anyone else who enjoys a good read that sparks their imagination.

This is one of those books that you not only get to read through once but you can keep occasionally picking it up to read sections you know will stimulate your imagination.

It is available in Northern Ireland in any decent book shop, that is still left standing, or through Amazon.


Monday, 18 November 2019

The Northern Ireland Protocol. What Does It Mean?

By Willie Drennan

The Withdrawal Agreement is a very complex and painful read. The majority of the British people have obviously not been able to study this long-winded monstrosity of legal jargon. They rely instead on the interpretations of media correspondents and their politicians of choice - most of whom seemingly haven't studied it in full either.

I have only read parts of the WA and have further developed a wee bald patch on the top of my head to prove  it.  But I have studied the NI Protocol section. The conclusion I have come to, to date, is that it is a horrendous treaty: not just for the Northern Irish part of the UK but for the whole of the UK.

The Backstop is still in there, camouflaged behind the complex legal jargon.

But I am no lawyer. So I have listed, and numbered, 20 of my understandings below in the hope that some legal experts, or highly evolved politicians, will be able to explain to me why I am wrong in my conclusions. I genuinely hope someone can.

1/ The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will rule supreme over any discrepancies that will arise out of the Northern Ireland (NI) Protocol.

2/During the Transition period, and for six years thereafter, the EU will be able to make changes to rules and regulations in Northern Ireland that will be binding in perpetuity, even in the event of the Protocol being rejected by the NI electorate.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Boris, Backstop and No Brexit

By Willie Drennan
Sometime in the distant future Stormont might, or might not, get to decide the flag it flies.

Boris has been a shining light amidst the dull world of the political elite. A charmer, comedian and lovable clown. But he is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and that's no joke.

Boris had opportunity to go down in history as the 21st Century Churchillian hero who led a sovereign Britain out across the seven seas to befriend the world. Instead he seems to have chosen the much easier well-trodden path of achieving glory within the confines of the European Union Project. They are just loving him now in Brussels, Strasbourg, Berlin and Bantry Bay.

There are many reasons why I think this Treaty is bad for the whole of the UK but one major deception in the Boris version of the Theresa EU Treaty is the claim that the Irish Backstop is gone. It's not gone, it's there in Article 18 of the Irish Protocol section of the proposed Treaty. And worse, it is now Backstop-Plus.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

The Ignored Common Travel Area

By Willie Drennan

Why is the significance of the Common Travel Area being largely ignored when it is so relevant to the current Brexit debate?

The Common Travel Area is an Agreement, an arrangement between the United Kingdom and Ireland that allows people born in Cork or Killarney to pack their belongings, hop on a boat or plane heading east, or a car or train up north; to live, work and reap the British benefits available in Bristol, Aberdeen or Coleraine.

And it even works exactly the same the other way round: from UK to Ireland. It has been in place for the benefit of British and Irish alike since shortly after the Irish Free State was formed in 1922. It has been regularly updated and improved upon.

It is the CTA that has created the situation today where there are currently more residents of Great Britain who can apply for an Irish passport than there are Irish citizens residing in the Republic of Ireland. It has recently been estimated that there are at least 6 or 7 million GB residents who can hold an Irish passport: they only need to have one grandparent who was born on the Emerald Isle.

Friday, 11 October 2019

2nd EU Referendum/Irish Border Poll

The Irish Border - during the Troubles.
By Willie Drennan.

Let's have a 2nd Referendum. Yes let's do it - at least 7 or 8 years after the UK has categorically left the EU. And Let's have an Irish Border Poll. Yes, let's do it: at least 7 or 8 years after the whole of the UK has categorically left the EU.

A 2nd EU Referendum before the result of the 2016 referendum has been fully implemented and given time to establish would be a travesty: a mockery of democracy.

An Irish Border Poll would be the exact same thing as a 2nd EU Referendum for the people of Northern Ireland. A Dublin-controlled independent United Ireland is no longer on the cards as the Republic of Ireland, like the UK, is currently under the jurisdiction of Brussels.

I do have empathy with my many friends who voted Remain: who genuinely fear for their careers and pensions when their employment is somehow connected to the EU System. This is particularly true in Northern Ireland where dependency on Public Sector employment is among the highest of any UK region: where fears of a 'hard border' were promoted in the EU's referendum campaign.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Britannia Rules Our Waves: the story of the song.

By Willie Drennan

This song is inspired by a photograph that appeared on the Twitter feed of the Fishing For Leave campaign group. The image is of a young lad at the wheel of his father's fishing boat in England. His father was genuinely concerned that if EU fishing trawlers were allowed to continue plundering UK fishing waters then there would be no fishing industry for future generations.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Liberal Politics and EU Devotees.

By Willie Drennan

John King's novel, 'The Liberal Politics of Adolf Hitler' is in classic dystopian style and imagines the evolution of the EU into the totalitarian United States of Europe. The striking thing about this book is that it was published in 2016: written before the referendum, and yet King's projections seem to be already manifesting rapidly.

Once you have read King's novel, or at least when you have read it for the second time and examined it in depth as I have done, you are continuously struck by how quickly his predictions are materialising. EU leaders now talk quite openly about federalisation, developing central authority and the formation of an EU army: the United States of Europe.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

The Independent Mind of Rabbie Burns. 1759 – 2019

By Willie Drennan

The man o' independent mind – he looks and laughs at aa that”.

The genius of Scotland's immortal bard has appealed to many folks for many different reasons. He had an exceptional ability to deeply understand humanity and to express his observations through his advanced skills in verbal and written communication. He was able to reach people from a wide range of social, political, religious and philosophical backgrounds.

Hardly surprising then that people with contrasting views and ethics seek to embrace him as one of their own. I'm afraid I'm no different. I will stick my neck out and say with absolute conviction that if Mr Burns was alive today that he would be no devotee of the EU and would have voted to escape from the control of that regime in the 2016 EU Referendum. There. I said it. And I await,in eager anticipation, an onslaught of challenge and abuse from an assortment of pro-EU Establishment academics and other non-academic EU devotees.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Leavers of Northern Ireland

The Ulster Folk is supporting the formation of Leavers groups in Northern Ireland, in conjunction with Leavers of Britain. The initial group will be called Leavers of Northern Ireland .The Ulster Folk will encourage and assist any Leave groups in Northern Ireland via social media accounts and web site.

Leavers of Britain has recently emerged from Leavers of London and is rapidly taking-off, across the UK. It facilitates the setting-up of groups for people who have voted to Leave the EU or who now wish the democratic decision of the EU Referendum to be implemented by government. It is the brainchild of the delightfully energetic Londoner, Lucy Harris, who is busy these days travelling all over Britain attending Leave gatherings and offering advice to the various groups. 

Following the referendum result many who supported Brexit across the country felt a degree of obstruction and hostility. In particular many feared for their careers as it was often the case that senior management in many sectors were strongly committed to Remaining in the EU. Leavers of Britain has provided a welcome social network for people to share experiences and support each other. They meet in public venues such as coffee houses and pubs.

Northern Ireland is no exception. In fact it might be more extreme here due to the vociferous support for the EU by those who lead Northern Ireland's large Public Sector. Those who work in Health, Education, Arts, Media or Banking sectors quite often do not feel comfortable to express their support for Brexit. In addition Project Fear had many people convinced that a hard border in Ireland would be inevitable post-Brexit.

It is the aim of the initial Leavers Of Britain members in Northern Ireland that their groups will meet up regularly and their gatherings will be open to everyone who now supports the implementation of the democratic decision to Leave. This can include citizens of the Republic of Ireland who support the growing Irexit campaign: and indeed those from any other country who have concerns about how the European Union is developing. We will also extend a warm invitation to citizens of non-EU countries who feel it is unfair that they do not have the same opportunities to live and work here as EU citizens have.

We encourage anyone who is interested to follow The Ulster Folk initially on Twitter or Facebook and to become members of Leavers of Britain. Those not on social media will receive updates via email from Leavers of Britain.

Join this expanding network straight away and don't miss out on the positive experience. It should be a lot of fun if nothing else. There are a few musicians and colourful characters already on board.

The first gathering in Northern Ireland is being planned for late February. As for the venue, we would welcome suggestions from pubs or coffee houses.

Join Leavers of Britain via their website: Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

The Ulster Folk also encourages Leavers of Northern Ireland to submit Brexit-related blogs for our blogsite:

Monday, 14 January 2019

No Deal, Theresa's Deal Or People's Vote?

By Willie Drennan
Image: courtesy of Fishing for Leave.

I was invited to participate on a panel discussion for Sky TV News this morning at 9.30am. There were four of us on the panel for a 10 minute slot. It was short and a bit frantic: probably the way TV news is meant to work, but I was disappointed that I didn't get to make some important points. So I am going to express them here instead: in bold.
In advance of the show, Sky asked me what I thought of 'No Deal, 'Withdrawal Agreement' and 'The People's Vote'.

If I had had the opportunity I would have expressed my concerns about all this terminology. 

The so-called No Deal has negative connotations and allows for some to interpret leaving the EU under WTO terms as crashing out of the EU.

No Deal however is exactly the same thing as the Leave the EU option that was on the ballot paper in the referendum: the option that the majority of the people in the United Kingdom, of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, voted for.