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Strong voice needed to defend unionism as Irish pan-nationalist feeling grows as the UK quits EU

letter of the day: brexit fallout

Pan-nationalism may have returned, as John Wilson Foster speculates (Comment, August 11). If this is so, it should be said it has returned with such a difference that one might wonder if "nationalism" is an appropriate description.

The passport which Seamus Heaney saw as differentiating him from other poets of these Britannic islands - a difference which he expressed somewhat truculently, and for many at the time somewhat ill-manneredly, to his London backer and publisher - is now no longer green, but the wine colour of the European Union, signifying the wider union to which all are subject.

And since those days, Heaney raised his glass to the Queen. And it is the prospect of leaving that wider union as a consequence of Brexit that has many concerned about the inter-relatedness, cultural and economic and employment, of these islands.

Heaney's earlier manner, however, of dissociating himself was typical of that with which the administration of Northern Ireland had to contend - governing, as it then was (given not only the political factions, but also the religious factions within the political with which it had to contend), while lacking the degree of consent that would be expected by administrations in other places. Even if, as an administration, it might have done better, it did not make such a bad job, as John Wilson Foster notes. But few in unionism today seem to be capable of speaking for it.

In seeing that Northern Ireland was interlocked with the welfare state of the United Kingdom (and there was some local opposition to that in the late-1940s), it opened opportunities to education for Seamus Heaney and others that were denied to many in the other Ireland at the time, the Ireland of the pious Eamon de Valera.

WA MILLER

Belfast

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