February 21, 2016

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Colin McCusker

Colin McCusker was born, raised and educated in Portadown, Co Armagh. The son of Ulster Unionist Party grandee Harold McCusksr graduated from UUC in 1992. He is married to Anne-Louise with 2 children at Primary School. After a time in business he moved into politics. Colin is a local Councillor representing the town of Lurgan and is employed full time by the UUP.
Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Colin McCusker:
"I think I first fully understood it and had it taught properly to me when I was 15, while studying history O level.  I may have been conscious of it before then, but have no real recollection."
BJS: "Do the men, the act or the stated ideals in the proclamation mean anything to you?" CM: 
"No. They were rebels, who fought against the state, and were opportunists who used the Great War as a distraction to achieve their aims."
BJS: "When did you first learn about the Battle of the Somme?" CM: 
"I was taught the 1st World War at O level, but there were no specific battles mentioned.  My parents attended the re-dedication of the Ulster Tower in France in 1989, so I became more aware of it then."
BJS: "Does this act, the men and their determination to show their loyalty to Britain mean anything to you?" CM: 
"I had relatives who fought and survived the Great War and others who died.  I am very proud of these relatives, for their bravery, and they willingness to lay down their life for their country.
I do however believe the men were cannon fodder for the British empire."
BJS: "As an Irishman and a British citizen, is the 1916 Rising important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" CM: 
"The 1916 rising was the pre-cursor to the eventual creation of Northern Ireland, so from that perspective, it is important.  I am Irish, because I was born on the Island of Ireland. No-one has any right to take that from me. The 1916 rising plays no part in my sense of Irishness."

Harold McCusker, Colin's late father

BJS: "As an Irishman and a British citizen, is the Somme offensive important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" CM: 
"The Somme has no part to play in why I feel able to say I’m Irish. I would love that the Somme had never happened. There is nothing to celebrate.  It was a terrible part of our history. I am proud of the bravery of the men who fought, but I also feel so sad about what happened."
BJS: "Will you be commemorating or celebrating either of these two events in April and July of this year respectively?" CM: 
"I will acknowledge the 1916 Rising and the role it played in the history of the island of Ireland.
will mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in France with my wife and family, as it is important that my children have a sense of the sacrifice made by others and the horror of war."
BJS: "Are you happy with the series of commemorative events put on by the Irish State? And what do you think of Arlene Foster's take on the events of Easter 1916 (she has refused to attend any commemorations)?" CM: 
"The FM’s attitude is probably similar to my own, in that I have no interest in taking part in events organised to celebrate the events of 1916.  However, when you hold high civic office, it is your duty to show respect to others, even when you feel it is contrary to your own outlook on life.

As an Ulster Unionist, I am prepared to mark the events of Easter 1916 and the impact those events had on my community and people which ultimately led to partition. I do not, and will not stick my head in the sand and pretend they did not happen."

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?" CM: 
"No. There is much more work to do in showing mutual respect and understanding of all the various traditions and cultures on this island.  More people are becoming broad minded, but unwilling to show it."
BJS: "What are your hopes for the future of this divided province and island?" CM: 
"My hope would be that Northern Ireland would become more secure within the United Kingdom, but continue to have excellent relationships with the Republic.  If we can improve our community relations, through education, and political leaders have the courage to break down the barriers, then maybe things will improve."
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