February 26, 2016

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Linda Ervine

Linda Ervine is well known for her activism in East Belfast in the field of the Irish language. In September 2012 she became Irish Language Development Officer with East Belfast Mission. Linda is 54 and was born in Belfast and self-identifies as British, Irish and Northern Irish. She went to Park Parade Secondary School. Becoming a young mum she continued her education in my early 30s. Linda went to QUB and did a degree in English, followed by PGCE, becoming an English teacher in a girls’ secondary school in East Belfast. 

Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Linda Ervine: 

"I don’t know when I first became aware of it but I know I would have heard of it before I ever had any knowledge of what it was."

BJS: "Do the men, the act or the stated ideals in the proclamation mean anything to you?" LE:

"Not really – I don’t know what the ideals in the proclamation are."

BJS: "When did you first learn about the Battle of the Somme?" LE:

"I suppose it was through watching the 1st July parade."

BJS: "Does this act, the men and their determination to show their loyalty to Britain mean anything to you?" LE:

"It makes me sad that so many men died because of a family feud."

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?" LE:

"It’s not something I give much thought."

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?" LE:

"No it isn’t."

BJS: "Will you be commemorating or celebrating either of these two events in April and July of this year respectively?" LE:

"No I won’t be going out of my way to commemorate either of these events but I am aware that they will be difficult to avoid."

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)?" LE:

"I think that many of the events which will commemorate both the Easter Rising and the Somme will rewrite history and glorify what were tragic events that brought about great suffering to ordinary people."

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?" LE:

"I feel that we still have a long way to go but I recognise that a lot of progress has been made.  The fact that we have an Irish language centre in the heart of East Belfast is an example of what has been achieved."

BJS: "What are your hopes for the future of this divided province and island?" LE:

"I hope that our young people will shake of the old sectarian divides and learn to live with each other.  The culture of suspicion and fear will fade and Ireland will be at peace with itself."

BJS: "Please share any further thoughts these questions may have stimulated." LE:

"I suppose the questions reveal my reluctance to engage with our history.  When I hear about plans to commemorate 1916 or the Somme, I switch off.  My default position appears to be avoidance.

 I would like to add that I visited Kilmainham Jail last year and was very moved when I read the letters of the prisoners awaiting execution for their part in the Rising.

My strongest memory of the visit was reading a letter written by a teenage boy to his mother whilst awaiting execution.  I thought of my own son and wouldn't want him to die for Ireland or Ulster or for any cause come to that. 
I visited the Somme Centre in Conlig with a school group a number of years  ago and this made me aware of the true horrors faced by the thousands of young men who fought at the Somme. 
My husband Brian wrote and sings a song called 'Rachel's Lament' which tells of the terrible loss of life suffered at the Somme.  It is on of my favourite songs."
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