I may have missed the first 27 years, but I have lived through the rest of it.
It is something really great to celebrate if you are a unionist; something to mark if you are not but want to be reasonable; or something to lament and grumble about if you are intolerant and blinded by bigotry.
In one hundred years “our wee country” has changed massively at almost every level. No matter at which point of the political compass we are positioned we should not try to rewrite our history.
It is clear from the structures that were fashioned at the birth of Northern Ireland that our forefathers did not envisage a creating a permanent state.
The apparatus of the Council of Ireland suggests our separateness from the South was to be short-term and transitory.
When Faulkner and others attempted to re-establish a diluted version of the Council of Ireland in the 1970s unionist opposition brought it down principally because of that element which they described as “a slippery slope into a United Ireland”.
Nothing I have suggested diminishes Craig and Carson. They were doing the very best that seemed possible and attainable at that time. Importantly they left space for future generations to decide what was best for themselves – and they have.
In the context of that historical reality the fact that we are commemorating Northern Ireland’s centenary demonstrates just how successful it has become by remaining within the United Kingdom.
While facing historical facts we should also acknowledge that in many ways Northern Ireland has not been a Utopian state but since the transgression in the Garden of Eden there has not been a Utopian state anywhere in the world.
The longevity of any territorial entity lies not in its attainment of perfection but rather in its ability to correct its mistakes.
Today it is unimportant whether we believe that much of our difficulties resulted because a minority, for generations after the formation of the state, insisted on opting-out of political life and civic responsibility or because of a majority did not want to make it inclusive.
We have to live in the here and now and like Craig and Carson, we, like it or not, must leave it to future generations to determine what they will see as best for them.
As we face into a new century of our country’s journey, we must make life more attractive for everyone who lives here. Northern Ireland belongs to all of us, no matter what each of us believe politically or spiritually. As unionists we can reach out and persuade.
We can improve the institutions, extol the benefits of being an integral part of the UK and we can only hope and have faith that succeeding generations will hold to the Union we love.
This centenary year offers the opportunity for unionists to focus attention on all that is best about Northern Ireland.
It provides the occasion for us to illustrate that no matter what one’s upbringing might have been, citizens across the board have prospered here. People from both sections of our community have flourished in business, academia, the professions and trades.
We must collectively promote the rugged beauty of our homeland and the splendour and allure of its attractions.
It allows us to reflect and show pride in our country and the role and influence people from our shores have made to advancements across the globe with innovations in engineering, transformations in health, medicine and pharmaceuticals, developments in science, providing generals and VC heroes for the military and raising Presidents and Prime Ministers for many major countries.
We should showcase the legacy of our artists, authors, poets, musicians and so many others who have enriched the lives of the worldwide audiences who experience their contributions.
We can also recognise the inspirational vocational sacrifice of many local Christian missionary who have shared their faith and provided care and support to those in need in every corner of the globe.
In entertainment, Northern Ireland “stars” have become global celebrities. In acting, comedy, singing and song writing our local performers have made their mark at the very top of their profession.
While across the many sporting disciplines, we have produced world-beaters.
Olympians, European and World Champions and many of the world’s best performers in athletics, rowing, swimming, motor sports, football, snooker, boxing, golf, rugby, hockey have the imprint “born in Northern Ireland” stamped upon them and they have been superb ambassadors for the place of their birth.
With this collective breadth and wealth of skill, expertise, ability and talent the task of finding cause to celebrate the centenary is, as we say in Belfast, a penalty kick. And yes, that too – the penalty-kick – was also the invention of an Ulsterman.
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