Working towards Irish Unity




‘Centenary broccoli’ is in bad taste

Broccoli? A doorstop? Is it a space invader to celebrate Northern Ireland’s burgeoning video gaming industry?

It appears this dreadful image is in fact supposed to be a statue to commemorate Northern Ireland’s centenary.

You may recall its brief appearance last year, when Sinn Fein vetoed its proposed erection in the grounds of Parliament Buildings.

They deemed it – correctly – to be a one-sided, horribly unrepresentative, completely unneeded reminder of partition, set in stone, which – somewhat ironically these days – Northern Ireland is not.

Since then, according to the BBC, Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd has left the obscure and banal sounding Assembly Commission, which adjudicates on such matters.

In lieu of no new Sinn Fein representative being appointed to replace him and veto the application (given the institutions are mothballed), the DUP and UUP, aided by the SDLP and Alliance, simply nodded the proposal through.

Previously the SDLP – at its quixotic, woolly worst – had said it was important to reflect the ‘stark experiences of partition and the formation of Northern Ireland and its impact on people.’

So, in ‘a spirit of generosity’ they backed the application, which is – literally – a depiction and glorification – of partition.

Alliance was no better.

Claiming that while they respected the fact ‘everyone has a different view on partition,’ the centenary of Northern Ireland (an irrelevance to Catholic-Nationalists) ‘should be marked in a shared, inclusive way, with a focus on the future.’

Let them see how this pans out for them in the forthcoming local elections.

Having been involved in public art projects in the past, I can tell you two things.

The first, is that you must have a clear intention of what you are commissioning and why, allowing the artist to develop a fitting concept.

The second, is that public art cannot be done on the cheap. Whatever you were estimating it to cost, double it.

Dealing with the first point, it is clear the unionist parties simply want a memorial to rub Catholics up the wrong way. That’s the beginning and the end of it.

This is about saying “we’re still here.” Which, when you think of it, is actually pretty sad. Is that all the centenary represents to unionists?

Still, I guess they can hardly say “we’re still in charge,” given the likely restoration of Stormont in coming weeks will see the DUP play second fiddle to a Sinn Fein First Minister.

It is equally clear, however, that none of the unionist parties – which are promising to pay for the thing – has any taste or, more pertinently, is too tight to splash out on something tasteful.

There is only good art and bad art – and this is, without question, an example of the latter.

Its bloody awful. Frankly, it should be enough to veto it on the grounds of public decency.

But it’s been a bad week for the DUP and TUV.

On the receiving end of a 2-0 defeat, as the British Supreme Court chucked out their legal challenge to the Protocol – and Downing Street signalled its willingness to accept terms from Brussels on a deal. I can see the bigger picture. If the ‘centenary broccoli’ at Stormont helps get things restarted inside the building, then I’d chip-in to help fund it myself.

Kevin Meagher is author of ‘A United Ireland: Why Unification is Inevitable and How it will Come About’ and ‘What A Bloody Awful Country: Northern Ireland’s Century of Division’