February 05, 2016

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Jonathan Drennan

Jonathan Drennan is the classic Belfast and Northern Ireland émigré. Born in Dundonald and raised in East Belfast, he attended RBAI then and Trinity, College Dublin. From Dublin the call of work took Jonathan to London and latterly Sydney, from where he responded to this interview.

Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Jonathan Drennan: 
"Comparatively recently, at university in Dublin, where I took it on myself to read up on it myself. I had barely studied it at school which was generally focused on the second world war for GCSE History."
BJS: "Do the men, the act or the stated ideals in the proclamation mean anything to you?" Jonathan Drennan: 
"Very little really. Although my father is from Dublin and I studied and lived there for five years, I feel completely different to those from Eire. I respect their sacrifice for their country, but find myself unable to relate to it."
BJS: "When did you first learn about the Battle of the Somme?" Jonathan Drennan: 
"When I was a young boy and I saw the Frank McGuinness play."
BJS: "Does this act, the men and their determination to show their loyalty to Britain mean anything to you?" Jonathan Drennan: 
"I never really saw it as an Irish or Northern Irish thing, I always thought of it as an Ulster sacrifice which I suppose can and does compromise the 9 counties."

BJS: "As a (British/Irish/Northern Irish*) person, is the 1916 Rising important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" Jonathan Drennan: 
"Not at all. I see myself as Northern Irish, and that sacrifice isn’t ultimately relevant to my life or identity. This doesn’t mean that I have any disrespect for their actions, it’s just that their fight was not mine. I cannot identify with an independent Irish state, so their fight would never be relevant to me."
BJS: "As a (British/Irish/Northern Irish*) person, is the Somme offensive important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" Jonathan Drennan: 
"Not definitively so, however, like all Irish soldiers in both world wars, I always try to remember their bravery. My Irish grandmother from Dublin fought in WW2 as did her brother also from Dublin, so I remember their sacrifice a lot."

BJS: "Will you be commemorating or celebrating either of these two events in April and July of this year respectively?" Jonathan Drennan: 
"No, being in Sydney, not really part of my day to day. However, with a huge Irish diaspora here wouldn’t be surprised if there is a 1916 commemoration. For some N.Irish protestants, they see anything to do with the Rising as a threat, rightly or wrongly."
BJS: "As a person on (or from) the island are you happy with the where we are now at in terms of culture, cosmopolitanism and broad-mindedness?" Jonathan Drennan: 
"Not really. I still feel that there are a minority on both sides stuck in segregated hatred. I strongly believe that schools should be secular, the more kids are separated at a young age, the worse it will be. Kids do not grow up with hatred in their hearts, that is taught. I wish we could move beyond predictable hatred every summer, that largely is because of boredom and a need to stir shit. It makes Northern Ireland look backwards and embarrassing internationally."
BJS: What are your hopes for the future of this divided province and island? Jonathan Drennan: 
"That we can learn to pull the bigots kicking and screaming into the 21st century."
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