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Northern Ireland marginalised in debate over 'Britishness'

Jon Bright (London, OK): The Irish Times ran an interesting piece a few days ago (which is unfortunately available through subscription only) by Dennis Kennedy, a member of the Cadogan Group. In it he complains that Northern Ireland has been marginalised in the current debate over British identity. Brown's Green Paper - The Governance of Britain - pays little attention to it (as, he wryly points out, the title suggests) - but Northern Ireland contains impotant lessons for those seeking a new Britishness. He concludes:

Behind the radical changes implemented in Northern Ireland might seem to lie a realisation that the United Kingdom is not a nation state, and there is no national identity that can be labeled British. The UK should be seen, rather, as partly a historical accident, and partly a convenient political arrangement within which people of varying identities can live together and organise their affairs in a manner that is beneficial to all. People live in it because they were born in it, because political or economic pressures forced them to migrate to it, or just because it suits them. It is pointless to agonise over Britishness - it is sufficient that those who live in the state recognise its legitimacy, respect its laws and join in the political processes of its governance...the future of the UK will depend more on efficient governance for all than on banging on about Britishness

Kennedy brings to mind Sisodia from the satanic verses (without the stammering): "the trouble with the English is that their history happened overseas, so they don't know what it means" he tells Farishta. But is the only lesson from Northern Ireland the idea that British nationalism doesn't really exist?


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