Derry unionist invokes Free Derry corner to argue against united Ireland in Seanad

A unionist community leader has argued against Irish reunification in the Oireachtas invoking the slogan on Free Derry corner, ‘You are now entering Free Derry’, to ask if health and education are free in the north why would nationalists want to change that?
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Derek Moore, coordinator of the North West Cultural Partnership (NWCP) in the Fountain, told senators: “We have a great symbol in Derry, which I am sure everybody knows. It is on the side of a gable wall and states, ‘You are now entering Free Derry’.

“That probably sums up how Derry people and many people in Northern Ireland think. Everything is free, including health, education and all the things we want. They are free. Why would we want to change that lifestyle? Why would nationalists want to change that lifestyle?”

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Mr. Moore asked the question while recently providing evidence to the Seanad during a discussion on the Constitutional Future of the Island of Ireland.

Derek Moore recently briefed the Seanad on unionist attitudes to constitutional change.Derek Moore recently briefed the Seanad on unionist attitudes to constitutional change.
Derek Moore recently briefed the Seanad on unionist attitudes to constitutional change.

The community worker started off by describing his experience as a unionist in Derry.

“Living in Londonderry, I feel at times that I live in a united Ireland, but it is one with obvious advantages such as the support of the British economy. Derry is a microcosm of what a united Ireland could look like.

"We replaced a unionist council in the 1970s, which was blamed for every discrimination under the sun, with a nationalist one. I cannot tell the committee whether the unionists were discriminating or not.

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"Much has been said about that. I was born into a working-class family. My parents lived in a house with gas, owned by some major unionist. For me, it was a class issue, not one of Protestants or Catholics.

“Derry has endured the euphoria of power exercised by the natural majority in the city, who removed their neighbours completely from the city side during what we commonly call the exodus,” claimed Mr. Moore.

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He told senators that unionists feared this would be repeated if Ireland was reunified.

“The real concern for me and people I speak to, including working-class people in bands and communities like that, is that they feel this will happen again in an Ireland that is united.

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“It is how I feel things will evolve. I am not alone in that thinking. If I lived in an all-Ireland state tomorrow, what would change for me? I would still live with the same Catholic, nationalist politicians, neighbours and council that I have now.

“No one will tell me that there will be a road to Damascus moment and that their thinking and sense of prejudice will disappear. I do not think our prejudice will disappear.

“When I am doing this work in the city, I am told there is a tidal wave of support for a border poll for a united Ireland from the nationalist and republican population.

“This message is promoted by politicians on the nationalist side. As I said to them, we have all heard the statement about turkeys voting for Christmas. What more could nationalists in Northern Ireland, or any of us for that matter, want?” he asked.

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Mr. Moore, who has been a pioneer of cross-community engagement and who facilitated the participation of the Londonderry Bands Forum in Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Derry in 2013, argued that Derry enjoys the best of both worlds under the status quo.

“We have self-determination about nationality, whatever way we want. We have a massive community and voluntary sector that funds 30 per cent of our jobs...

“We have the benefits of Britain's economic power. We can have any passport we want, whether a British one to show that we are British or an Irish one, or a mix of the two to travel around the world.

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"We have a chance to build a great future. I tell this to all my friends and everyone who argues the case against it. We can focus on the future, not the past.”

Mr. Moore said there is ‘constant noise from political nationalists, academics and even foreign politicians that pro-union supporters need to discuss and articulate their thoughts and position on a united Ireland’.

However, he said the example of the Brexit referendum should provide pause for thought for those arguing for constitutional change in Ireland and Britain, arguing that the basis for the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union was based on ‘lies’ and ‘false promises’.

“A clear position has never been laid out to me about what a united Ireland looks like. I am happy with what I have, so why would I be interested in discussing something that has never been articulated to me? A clear position is necessary for any future debate.

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“All I want to do is to look at the economic, cultural and societal facts to see if they create any doubt about the concept. Brexit delivered lies. It made false promises and showed that not having a bigger majority than 50 per cent plus one will never work. Northern Ireland is a great place and I have no bother promoting that.

“That is the kind of thing I am working on at the minute. It is not looking at economics or the big picture, but at the people I live with. I would not force the people who I live with into a Republic of Ireland that is stable because if we cannot live together in Northern Ireland, then we will never live together in a united Ireland,” stated the Fountain-based community worker.

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