I refer to the article in the Carrick Times (Thursday, January 16 2014) ‘Ballycarry in appeal to Haass’ in which the group (Ballycarry and District Community Association) said that “we believe that, as we can contentedly espouse our Ulster-Scots identity within Northern Ireland and also accept that we are an integral part of the United Kingdom”.
So my question is: Can you be an Ulster-Scot living in Northern Ireland and support Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom and also oppose Scotland’s right to become an independent nation?Well, let’s look at the history of the Ulster-Scots movement. The migration from Scotland to Ulster is believed to have begun sometime around 1609 in a period known as the Plantation of Ulster and many of these people were Presbyterians. At this time Scotland was an independent nation and indeed the crowns of England and Scotland had only just been united under King James VI of Scotland and I of England. The Union of Parliaments did not come into existence until 1707. Many Ulster-Scots followers in Northern Ireland commemorate these events of the first migration yet these people would not have been British. They would have been Scottish and would have seen themselves as Scottish. They would not have woken up on the day of King James’ coronation and suddenly thought they were British.
Then 100 years later the descendants of many of these Presbyterians then migrated to North America and many people of Ulster descent would help to draft and also put their names to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Many Ulster-Scots followers living in Northern Ireland commemorate American Independence Day and Thanksgiving and there are always events held in the Andrew Jackson Cottage to mark these days. Indeed, the Broadisland Festival concentrated on Ulster’s links with the USA a few years ago. This puzzles me. As I previously said, the majority of Ulster-Scots followers in Northern Ireland are unionist and want Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom yet they celebrate events like American Independence Day when Ulster’s descendants broke from the Union.
The Ulster Covenant is based on Scottish Covenant from the 17th century but again this has nothing to do with ‘Britishness’ unlike the Ulster Covenant. Indeed, those who signed the Scottish Covenant wanted to thrust the Scottish religious system onto the English. But does anybody seriously think that the people who signed the Scottish Covenant saw themselves as British? Of course not. They were Scottish.
Many Ulster-Scots living in Northern Ireland celebrate Burns Night every year. Does anybody who attend these events seriously believe that Robert Burns thought he was British? Of course not. He was Scottish. So the answer to my question is: no. You cannot be an Ulster-Scot living in Northern Ireland and support the Union of the United Kingdom. Ulster’s links are with Scotland and Scotland alone. So let’s campaign for an independent Scotland and then campaign for Northern Ireland/Ulster to join that Union instead. And instead of protesting about the removal of the Union flag from Belfast City Hall, let’s protest about the fact that the flag of Northern Ireland does not fly above Belfast City Hall.
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