A Positive Challenge To Northern Ireland Nationalists

James Wilson sets the context to a statement released by a group comprised of civic unionists, greens, socialists and non-aligned.

Over the past few years, a group of Northern Ireland civic unionists, greens, socialists and non aligned have engaged in both difficult and constructive conversations with Sinn Fein and other sections of civic nationalism.

Via these conversations we gained the impression that we were equals in terms of the expression of rights, equalities, civil liberties and reconciliation.

It was therefore puzzling when our nationalist neighbours were to lobby Taoiseach Leo Varadkar via correspondence and not mention those with an alternative constitutional allegiance or identity who share similar or related concerns about rights, reconciliation and civil liberties. We assume we were referred to as '... everyone living here' [sic]. 

This suggests that people, such as the signatories of this letter, are passive as concerns the debating of issues around rights and civil liberties. We are neither passive or defensive but instead actively engaged in positive interventions and debates.

Therefore, we take this opportunity to remind all this desire to debate the issues of equality, inclusion and ultimately reconciliation is not the exclusive preserve of only one section of our divided society.

Within 72 hours of the first tentative approach on the morning of Wednesday 21st February, some 105 signatures had been secured in support of this text. The group has been drawn from business, politics and community activism and is committed to engaging with all sections of society. 

As in their sustained encounters with civic nationalism, this ad hoc group of civic minded Northern Ireland citizens are obliged to Prof Pete Shirlow, Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, who has facilitated a series of events and conversation between civic nationalism, unionism and others. These events, centred upon mutual respect and open dialogue.

Indeed these events and the sustained dialogue with our nationalist neighbours have built confidence in presenting such a letter which aims to further enhance peace-building.

Group Rapporteur Doctor James Wilson summed up the achievement:

The aim of this text is not only to remind our nationalist neighbours that we exist, but to challenge both them and the Dublin and also British Government to join with us in pursuit of that many civic values and beliefs that we share.

A Positive Challenge to Northern Nationalists

We the undersigned desire a transparent and inclusive debate concerning rights, truth, equality and civil liberties and in so doing challenge assumptions that such values are not embedded within civic unionism, pluralism and other identities.

We are motivated by the desire to build a society for the betterment of everyone. This cannot happen when such a commitment is perceived as being vested in one community or political persuasion. We find it frustrating and puzzling that civic unionism, pluralists and other forms of civic leadership have been rendered invisible in many debates focused on rights and responsibilities. It has reduced our capacity to be heard and undermines the power of reconciliation to shift society away from stale and limiting notions of identity.

We have worked for peace and reconciliation and in so doing have had open and transparent engagement with civic nationalism. That has included recognition of the need for equality and most importantly the urgent need for polarised communities in Northern Ireland to reconcile and deal with barriers to a better future. To achieve this requires the recognition that withholding truth presents as such. This is not unique to any institution or section within our society but where it is a selective process, healing a pernicious and destabilising past remains as a challenge to us all.

Civic unionism, and other identities are not resistant to claims of equality and full citizenship. These identities are central to the development of an authentically fair and tolerant society.

We wish to unite, not divide, and in encouraging transparency we call upon civic nationalism and others to engage with us in frank and fulsome debates about the many values and beliefs that are commonly shared and are vital to transforming the issues that we face.

Brian Acheson
Ian Acheson
Irwin Armstrong
Arthur Aughey
Stuart Aveyard
John Barry
Doug Beattie
John Bew
Elizabeth Boyd
Gavin Boyd
William Boyd
Glenn Bradley
Michael Briggs
Daniel Brown
Jonathan Burgess
Paul Burgess
Jason Burke
Alison Campbell
Stevie Campbell
Lesley Carroll
Jim Crothers
Jonny Currie
Vince Curry
Glenda Davies
James Dingley
Brian Dougherty
Jeffrey Dudgeon
John Dunlop
Janice Dunwoody
Aaron Edwards
William Ennis
Brian Ervine
Linda Ervine
Isabella Evangelisti
Neil Faris
Albert Flanagan
Dean Farquhar
Stewart Finn
John W. Foster
James Gallacher
Richard Garland
Brian Garrett
James Greer
Trevor Hamilton
Barry Hazley
Helen Henderson
Maureen Hetherington
Chris Hudson
Fiona Hutchinson
Mark Irvine
Kathryn Johnston
Georgina Kee-McCarter
James Kee
Julia Kee
Lauren Kerr
John Kyle
Paul Leeman
David McAloanen
Chris McGimpsey
Shirley McMichael
Lesley Macaulay
William Matchett
Andrew Mawhinney
Lindsay Millar
Lewis Montgomery
Derek Moore
Pamela Moore
Steve Moore
Gareth Mulvenna
Mike Nesbitt
George Newell
Hannah Niblock
Russell Orr
Jenny Palmer
John Palmer
Len Peace
Claire Pierson
Andy Pollak
Catherine Pollock
Dawn Purvis
David Ramsey
Chris Reid
Stafford Reynolds
Trevor Ringland
John Shackels
David Shaw
Stephanie Shaw
Peter Shirlow
Frank Shivers
Philip Smith
David Smyth
Neil Southern
Brian Spencer
David Stewart
John Stewart
Robin Stewart
Kyle Thompson
Brian W. Walker
Garth Watson
David Whiteside
Robert Williamson
Steve Williamson
Andrew Wilson
James Wilson
Terence Wright 


  1. What is civic nationalism? Does Unionism not fully comprehend that it is they and they alone who are twarting attempts at equality....this is the most bizarre situation that Unionism has claimed in a long time.

  2. The 'peace' walls still stand, the schools are still segregated, their syllabus and curriculum increasingly controlled by the various christian sects- all teachers must obtain their teaching certificates from one of the two ''teacher training colleges.'' Now that your middle-class super-funded gravy train has run out of cash you are 'concerned' Where have you been for the last twenty years?