Born and bred in Belfast, Peter M was schooled at RBAI before studying at Durham University. He now works in investment in London.
Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Peter M:
"Probably around the age of 11 or 12, I remember my dad showing me the bullet holes on the front pillars of the GPO in Dublin before heading off to Lansdowne Road to watch Ireland play. I would have become a bit more familiar with the Rising as the years went on, although it wasn’t until studying Irish history as part of my A-levels that I was properly introduced to the topic."
BJS: "Do the men, the act or the stated ideals in the proclamation mean anything to you?" PM:
"I wouldn’t usually advocate violence as a means to further a political goal but it strikes me that the British Government were ignoring the democratic will of the Irish people and so armed resistance becomes more acceptable. The proclamation is clearly very progressive for its time and still is so today. Aside from some of its dramatic revolutionary fervour, there isn’t an awful lot you would argue with in terms of the proclamation’s aims and declarations."
BJS: "When did you first learn about the Battle of the Somme?" PM:
"Growing up in East Belfast, I seem to remember noticing it feature a lot on murals. Again, my dad would probably have explained the significance of the battle to me before I learnt about it in second or third year history lessons at school."
BJS: "Does this act, the men and their determination to show their loyalty to Britain mean anything to you?" PM:
"Clearly these men were incredibly brave to do so and importantly they were also morally right to defend Britain against the German Empire. I understand that for a lot of them, this demonstrated their loyalty to Britain, although I would also argue that the need to defend the entirety of Europe was an equally significant factor in this."
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?" PM:
"Given that I consider myself Irish (as well as British and Northern Irish), then it is difficult to overlook such a pivotal event in relation to my identity. That said, having lived in the UK all my life, I struggle to see how the freedom that the Rising eventually secured for Irish citizens has really impacted on my life. At most, I suppose that I like the ideals of the proclamation and think that they feed into a sense of Irish values (albeit widely held by other countries too)."
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?" PM:
"Due to the fact that so many different people from different countries fought heroically in the Great War, I don’t feel like the Somme offensive carved out a unique sense of identity for anyone. I get that it is something to be very proud of and that the loss of life was huge for such a small community, but it isn’t clear to me what identity it has shaped. It shows loyalty and immense bravery yes, but I’m not sure it creates an identity."
BJS: "Will you be commemorating or celebrating either of these two events in April and July of this year respectively?" PM:
"I expect to engage with any commemorative events, probably through the media. That said, I have no plans to attend any events."
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)?" PM:
"I haven’t looked into precisely what type of events are being held but in principle I am supportive of national celebrations of independence. The French revolution was a lot more bloody than the Easter Rising and I don’t think many people complain about Bastille Day. Arlene Foster’s initial stance (before what appears to be a politically motivated climb-down) assumes the British government has never done anything wrong and that at no point in the entirety of history was any sort of physical resistance justifiable against that government. I think that even the most ardent Unionist struggles to defend this view."
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?" PM:
"I think it is very much a generational thing and that young people now are a lot more open-minded in Northern Ireland. Politically, I would almost like to see us leap frog the current generation of politicians and move straight to a younger generation of politicians who have played no part in the Troubles. The murky histories of a lot of the current politicians mean that mud-slinging and personal attacks often get in the way of genuine policy debate."
BJS: "What are your hopes for the future of this divided province and island?" PM:
"Quite clichéd but prosperity, peace and a shared understanding. I think prosperity is really important in the achievement of most social other goals, it means that people have one less thing to be angry about."