Interview 3 of our Ordinary Voices project. Respondent is Brian (61), a retired teacher from the South L’derry area. Brian describes himself as “happily married and even more happily retired”. Brian is a former member of the Irish Independence Party and a is father of 4 and grandfather of 7. As with all the other interviews for the Ordinary Voices project, this interview was carried out via email.
Question 1: How would you describe yourself politically?
I would definitely say I’m a nationalist. I didn’t vote until I was in my twentys, I was much more of a firebrand in those days and I didn’t have much time for the likes of the SDLP. But when the IIP emerged they appealed to me much more as a party and eventually I became a member.
When the IIP started to fall apart I became a bit apathetic again. I sorted of drifted towards the SDLP a few years later and have supported them ever since, with the exception of one assembly election when I voted Sinn Féin.
Question 2: Do you think that legacy issues are damaging to the peace process?
Yeah I think they are. We need to find a way of dealing with the past. That’s vital. So many people suffered and lost loved ones, there is so much hurt and anger out there, we have to face up to it and deal with. How we do that I don’t know. That will need to be worked out by smarter men than me.
Question 3:. Do you believe that there is a bias when it comes to legacy issues?
Yes and no. It certainly looks as if there is and I know many people in the Unionist community feel like that but you need to remember that we must hold the state (and the army/RUC) up to a higher standard than the likes of the IRA, UVF or INLA.
The army, police and UDR kept records, the paramilitaries didn’t. That makes it really difficult to get to the real truth of murders carried out by them. I think though that something should be done to make the entire process less about what the state and security forces did and more about wrongdoing on All sides. I think that’s important.
Question 4: Do you think that Loyalism, in particular the UPRG and PUP, have done enough to reach out to the nationalist/republican community?
To their credit they have at least done something in that regard but all the fine words in the world count for nothing when you then have the UVF and UDA involved in killings and pipe bomb attacks and who knows what else.
I honestly think the best thing that the likes of the PUP could do would be to encourage the UVF and UDA to dissolve their organisations completely. *
Question 5: Do you think that nationalists and republicans have done enough to reach out to the Unionist/Loyalist community?
Honestly no. The SDLP works well with the likes of the UUP but they can do more. The SDLP and the [Ulster] Unionists should be going into ordinary communities, the SDLP into unionist areas and vice versa, I think that would be a very good start.
As for Sinn Féin, I’m afraid I see no outreach at all. If they were truly genuine about a reunited Ireland they would be putting all their efforts into convincing unionists that they have nothing to fear in a new Ireland but they seem incapable of doing that. Some of things Sinn Féin put their time and effort into leave people like me scratching our heads to be honest.
Question 6: Would you like to see a ‘border poll’ in the near future?
As a nationalist I have to say yes but everyone involved, including unionists, need to set out their plan for what they will do in the event of a yes vote. Let all parties be upfront about what they think a united Ireland should look like and what concessions would have to be made.
Unionists could get a lot of concessions to get them to buy into a new Ireland. They could really have nationalists over a barrel if they wanted to and were ready to look at it realistically instead of just totally rejecting the idea.
Question 7: Do you believe that collusion was as widespread as republicans allege?
No I do not. We had a very dirty “war” here and all sides were up to their knees in it. There are no innocent parties when it comes to this sort of thing. All sides did evil things and worked with other groups when it suited them. Of course collusion happened but it’s made out to be something it wasn’t.
Question 8: What are your hopes and aspirations for Northern Ireland in the medium to long term?
I want to see the assembly up and running again, although I don’t know if Sinn Féin and the DUP can ever make it work long-term. Maybe it’s time to give other parties a chance to form a government.
I also want to see some sort of legal recognition for the Irish language. They have legal protection for Gaelic in Scotland and for the Welsh language in Wales, why not for Irish in the North of Ireland?
Most of all I just want to see this place continue to be peaceful and relatively normal. I never want my grandchildren to have to put up with the sort of stuff I had to (or my kids had to) during The Troubles. Time for everyone in Northern Ireland to get on with normal everyday life, as much as we can.
Thanks to Brian for this interview and for contributing to the Ordinary Voices Project.
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