Prime minister’s plan to lift mood after Brexit is set to clash with anniversary of Irish civil war
It was meant to be a glimmer of positivity to unite a divided nation – a festival to celebrate the best of British, bring communities together and strengthen “our precious union”.
Yet Theresa May is being warned that her plan for a Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland risks doing the opposite. The planned 2022 event, announced at last year’s Conservative conference, was criticised as a headline-grabbing distraction. But May now faces concerns that the timing clashes with the centenary of Irish partition and the civil war. Arts industry figures in Northern Ireland and some of those involved in the peace process are also understood to have concerns. These worries are revealed in a report by the thinktank British Future, which examined the potential for arts and heritage to bring the nation together. The study calls on the festival to be delayed by at least three years.
What is now the Irish republic became the Irish Free State in 1922, while Northern Ireland remained part of the UK. A civil war erupted among Irish nationalists over the remaining links with Britain and raged for a year. Sunder Katwala, the report’s author, said: “Holding a festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2022, on the centenary of Ireland’s partition and civil war, would be the worst possible timing. It is only likely to heighten tensions between communities – and that’s before we know Brexit’s implications for the border. Right across the UK, a festival so closely associated with Brexit may only reinforce divides when it could be bridging them.”
The anniversary of the Irish Civil War is an absolutely great and wondrous time to celebrate the unity of the UK and NI.
Because, quite obviously the Irish C W was at about the time that we got rid of those who didn’t want that unity.