Belfast Telegraph

Feile can teach us a lesson

By Brian John Spencer

Feile was great. This garden centre Prod got to meet some Big Game Shinners and got an ear on some fascinating seminars.

I thoroughly recommend it. You only strengthen your argument by exposing yourself to opposition. It makes you fitter.

That's the problem here. Two towers of inviolable revelations, utterly incompatible with the other. Giving credence to your opponent's point is blasphemy. For me as a unionist – a "Lundy".

Well, this Lundy doesn't care. That unionist certainty is obscene. It makes you fat and flabby.

The same applies to republicanism. And this is my point on the Feile – it seemed like a cosy, self-congratulatory Shinner steam bath, save for the token unionist.

It was the ladling of sanctimony over the hot stones of ineffable certainty. This does nothing for the ligaments of your argument.

In West Belfast Talks Back, the majority republican camp was united in support for Gaza. Yet the south is infinitely more nuanced.

This piety and uniformity is part of a false, partitionist political climate (50-60% of the south is centre-Right politically).

Then there was the ceasefire talk. A lady mightily chastised Brian Rowan for saying loyalism needs some charity from the Shinners.

It was a "them'uns get everything" argument. It made me want to say, "Excuse me, madam, but you're starting to sound like one of those lachrymose loyalists."

Then there was the writer Colm Dore, roundly feted for saying unionism needs to show leadership. A bit like saying "kick the pope" at a loyalist rally.

Then there was this sneering contempt for British identity. It's a construct, they kept saying, as though west Belfast isn't redolent of the "comely maiden" Celtic-brigadoon Ireland of de Valera. It's infantile Brits-out stuff.

The irony is the America-worship, as though America isn't what happens when you do the Ulster Plantation over a continent.

Atticus Finch said that to understand another person you need to walk around in their boots.

Both sides need to cut the flab and expose themselves to the rigour of the other side.

  • Brian John Spencer is a writer, artist and blogger

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