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30 July 2010

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Letter to the Taoiseach

Taoiseach, a chara,
I hear that Bertie has decided against running for the Áras. Is fearr rith maith ná droch sheasamh – a good run is better than a bad stand, I suppose.
Anyway, what set me thinking about the upcoming election for President of Ireland was a photograph in the Belfast Telegraph of Poles going to the polls in a community centre on the Ormeau Road. Then I met some constituents near Omagh who are American citizens and who were invited to apply for voting rights in the next American presidential election.
Do you remember the evening we met, Taoiseach, in the bar of the Tullamore Court Hotel?  Let me jog your memory. You were with your party advisers on a Friday evening when you invited me to join the company. We had some craic. I had just finished up a meeting with Brendan Killeavy, our own Tullamore councillor and his advisers. I asked you to lift the ban and you looked at me with some incredulity.
“What ban?” you pleaded and searched. I told you that you were the only man who could end the prohibition and lift the ban. It was entirely in your gift. Now your advisers really paid attention. “I haven’t banned anyone,” you protested.
“The ban which prevents Irish citizens in the North from voting in our presidential elections,” I replied in my capacity as a disenfranchised one. Not just me. Eleven of the 15 Gaelic football All Stars selected at the City West Hotel in 2003 were also banned. In fact, they are still banned and, Taoiseach, you’re the only man who can lift the ban.
Your advisers chorused, “He got you there, Brian,” but, as you know, Brian, I wasn’t looking for one-up. I just wanted you to lift the ban, especially if you and the President want to be in the photograph in the Hogan Stand. Mary definitely deserves to be in the photo.

And since then, Taoiseach, I see you’ve just been up to Crossmaglen to open an office for Fianna Fáil.
Will those Fianna Fáil supporters who gave you a welcome be given a vote?

On a separate note, did I tell you the latest about DUP Culture Minister Nelson McCausland? Three years on, Nelson is no further forward. He is not inclined towards an Act to promote and protect the Irish language in the North but he always said that he would take forward a strategy to promote the Irish language in line with commitments secured in the St Andrew’s Agreement and Hillsborough.
Well, here, Nelson is still not ready but he has identified the high-level principles upon which an eventual strategy might be based. That is, if he can force the BBC to make more Ulster Scots programmes and if the Curriculum Council in the North will agree to make Ulster Scots a GCSE subject.
Nelson should have a word with his party colleague, William Hay, the Ceann Comhairle at Stormont, who was pleased to include ‘Ballymiscaw’ in the official address of the Assembly. As you know, Taoiseach, our townlands largely originate from the Irish language. Ballymiscaw means “Town of the hill of shadows or spectres”. A great spot for Nelson.

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Uncomfortable Conversations 

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An initiative for dialogue 

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