In this episode of What Northern Ireland Means to Me, we meet Ian MARSHALL, current member of the Ulster Unionist Party and former Senator in Seanad Éireann.
I suppose when I think of Northern Ireland, I think of home.
And why you wouldn’t I? It is my home and it has been my home for 53 years, and we’ve lots to be proud of, and I’m actually immensely proud of Northern Ireland.
For me, Northern Ireland’s George Best, it’s Snow Patrol, it’s Ash, it’s Rory McIlroy, Joey Dunlop, it’s Harry Ferguson, Paddy Kielty, it’s the Northern Ireland football team; and the list goes on and on.
Northern Ireland is a wee place punching way above its weight, as part of the UK, with only 1.8 million people churning out an endless stream of entertainers, sports stars, engineers, scientists, and all sorts of people excelling in business, industry, and academia.
For me, it’s a place with family, friends, and memories and unquestionably more good memories than bad.
Most of all, though, Northern Ireland’s about people. It’s about good people. People who had to overcome challenges, adversity, threats, and difference, to hang on to some degree of normality, through very challenging times. Most of all, though, it was about very resilient people.
When we tend to think of Northern Ireland, most people have a tendency to focus on negativity, not realising actually just how much we have, compared to other parts of the world. It’s not without its problems, but it’s a good place to live and work and raise a family, despite our chequered history.
But we all inherited our history, and we had no part in the making of it. And still somehow we’ve inherited the feeling of responsibility for what has gone before, despite the fact that most weren’t even born 100 years ago.
This year, especially, has flagged up the depth of feeling on all sides about our inherited history.
A recollection of one history and two narratives. When I think of this history, the often skewed distortion of it, sometimes with selective memory and selective amnesia, I can see that we need to understand it in all its entirety and to put everything into context at a time and a place.
Because without the context, everything will conveniently fall into one camp or the other, to score points or to support a position, or to make political arguments for one narrative or the other.
When I think of Northern Ireland today, I really think of a place apart, unique and special. A small place with a feeling of family about it, and a quality of life. A place fundamentally different from 1998, but a place now filled with hopes, dreams, and aspirations, with a new generation of young people not blighted with bigotry, sectarianism, and an obsession with the past.
It’s all about young people looking forward to the future together and about their opportunities at home and farther afield. This is now about my children, about your children, in fact about all our children.
What Northern means to me as about creating a shared space and just making Northern Ireland a place that everyone can call home and where everyone can feel at home.
What Northern Ireland Means to Me is presented by Julia Paul and produced by Shared Future News, to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland, with funding from the Heritage Fund on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office.
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Images © Allan LEONARD