March 09, 2016

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Doug Beattie

Doug Beattie MC is a soldier and UUP councillor aged 50. His father served in the Royal Ulster Rifles and the Ulster Defence Regiment. He grew up in a working class community in Edgarstown, Portadown. He left school at the age of 16 with no academic qualifications and joined the military - The Royal Irish Rangers. In his own words, his career:
"In a thirty four year career he has guarded Rudolph Hess, the US cruise missiles at Greenham common. Stood beside Colonel Tim Collins OBE as his Regimental Sergeant Major when he gave his eve of battle speech before the invasion of Iraq and I have stood before Her Majesty the Queen to be awarded a medal for bravery. 
I have served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, numerous African sub Saharan country's as well as Iraq and Afghanistan. In doing so I have received the Queen's Commendation for Bravery, the NATO Meritorious Service Medal and the Military Cross. 
On leaving the military I have written two Best Selling books stood for and been elected to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and I am now standing for the Assembly as the Ulster Unionist Candidate for Upper Bann. 
I am a member of the Army Reserve and I still have no academic educational qualification. My first novel is due to be published, I hope, in May 2016."

Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Doug Beattie:
"I came from a military family were religion and Irish politics was never spoken about. My education took me to various schools around the world and Irish history was never on the curriculum. So the events of 1916 came to me very late in life which might sound strange now given its exposure but as man and boy it never truly affected my life. 
My first operations tour of duty in South Armagh brought with it a need to understand my own country and people.  I learned what drove our divided community, what was important to them in order to make me a more effective, even handed soldier. 
It was a goldfish bowl understanding of issues, a selfish self serving approach to understanding the 'them and us' mentality but in doing so it brought the Rising question to the fore. It started a genuine, yet basic, interest in our country's history - I was twenty-five years old."
BJS: "Do the men, the act or the stated ideals in the proclamation mean anything to you?" DB:
"Yes - in many different ways. Firstly I understand the act of fighting for what you believe in. That is not to say I support the ideals of those who started the Easter Rising and the bloodshed that followed over the last hundred years. But I do understand courage, commitment and dedication. 
The proclamation, for me, was not about the ideals of the people of Ireland. I feel it was a selfish proclamation which didn't take into account what the people of Ireland really wanted but instead it served the few irrespective of the many. 
It feels like a stab in the back to those who were living in poverty while their men were fighting in WW1 and I feel that those who perpetrated the Easter Rising did so for very personal gain.  It was clear at that time their stated aims could have been achieved without the Rising and without the bloodshed so this leads me to conclude there was a selfish rational for the rising. 
But that was then and this is now - the 1916 Rising is part of our history and has shaped all our lives as well as our country and this Island. I understand how important the Rising is too many people and it is important to respect that and attempt to understand the narrative of the time and the poor reactions by the UK Government before during and after the Rising of 1916."
BJS: "When did you first learn about the Battle of the Somme?" DB:
"As a soldier I learned about the Battle of the Somme from the age of sixteen. However I only understood the nature of the battle and later our country's part in the battle at the same time as I learned about the Rising of 1916. 
I have never understood it as the political event it has now turned into and in truth I still do not."
BJS: "Does this act, the men and their determination to show their loyalty to Britain mean anything to you?" DB:
"Loyalty is an important value. I do not see the actions of the Somme as a determination to show loyalty to Britain. I believe it was a determination to show loyalty to each other on the battlefield. To stand beside your neighbour and fight against an enemy who needed to be stopped. 
Soldiers leaving the trenches would have done so on the orders of the Generals, Senior Officers and their None Commissioned Officers. The courage shown was something inside of us all - flight or fight - but in the Ulster Division there was a comradeship that meant flight was never an option. 
This collective courage is a source of great pride for me and for many other people.  Their loyalty to each other, to their unit, regiment, identity and country is the cornerstone of any society and I take great comfort knowing they showed incredible moral and physical courage. Only later were their actions used for political positioning."
BJS: "As a Irish person, is the 1916 Rising important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" DB:
"Of course - the Rising was the catalyst for partition. Had it not happened the likelihood is Ireland would still be a single country. 
So as the catalyst for partition it also became the catalyst for creating the country I now live in - Northern Ireland. It shaped that country for good and bad and it put in place an ideology which means Northern Ireland will never cease to exist. 
My loyalty and commitment will go into promoting my country and ensuring is goes from strength to strength with its own unique identity. I am Irish, British....... I live in and I am loyal to the values of the United Kingdom. I have fought for that identity and I will not relinquish it. The Rising plays a big part in how I view myself. 
I also understand that very same ideology is present in those who want to see a reunification of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland."
BJS: "As a Irish person, is the Somme offensive important to you and your sense of identity and sense of belonging on this island?" DB:
"No - as I have previously stated. As a soldier I know what it is like to fight side by side with your comrades. They can be Protestant, Catholic, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist. They can be gay, straight, by-sexual and too a lesser degree transgender. 
Each person will have their own beliefs, their own aspirations for the future. Yet they unite to fight a common enemy not for political gain but for each other knowing that they will be marginalised in some degree when the fighting is done. 
The Somme, but more over the actions of the 36th Ulster Division on the first day of the Somme, is a source of great national pride and also a tragic loss of life which we would not accept today. 
It is part and parcel of my identity but it doesn't define that identity. There is far much more."
BJS: "Will you be commemorating or celebrating either of these two events in April and July of this year respectively?" DB:
"Yes - I will be commemorating various activities in respect to the Battle of the Somme as a Irish unionist, a military veteran and an Ulster Unionist politician. As I write this I will not be commemorating any events celebrating the 1916 Rising but neither will I ignore it. 
I understand its importance to many people. And I will mark it by investigating it's causes and effects as well as lessons to be learned by the failure of the IK government to deal with it effectively. 
I will do this collectively and privately."
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)?" DB:
"I honestly believe it is up to Ireland to celebrate the 1916 Rising as they feel is right - this is for them as a separate sovereign country with their own identity. 
I hope the Irish government understand and give proper precedence to the narrative of the time which was clear. The rebellion was not a popular rising, it didn't represent the majority of the people of Ireland and had it not been given status by the poor reactions by the UK government it would have slipped into history virtually unnoticed and partition would never have happened. 
On reflection I think Arlene Fosters stance on the 1916 commemorations is clear and understandable but lacks a coherent plan to mark such a huge event which helped to create Northern Ireland. We cannot pretend it didn't happen therefore we need to investigate and understand why it did. Therefore more should have been done to lay that narrative to the people of Northern Ireland to challenge the single narrative. 
As the First Minister many will say she should represent all who live here. I understand that view but we need to be honest - we have a joint First Minister in Martin McGuinness regardless of the title we give him as a deputy. It can be Martin McGuinness who can represent Northern Ireland at the 1916 Rising commemorations. I think people should understand why Arlene Foster cannot but I think language is all important. 
For me it's about respecting difference."
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?" DB:
"No - we confuse culture and identity with sovereignty. You can see your culture or identity as Irish, British both or neither. The Belfast agreement sets that out clearly and it must be respected. But the sovereignty of this country is not in question and it is incumbent on all the people of Northern Ireland to understand and respect this. 
My culture is as cosmopolitan as I want it to be or I am happy with and I think many people view themselves in the same way. 
I am represented by the Orange Sash, Ulster-Scots, God Save the Queen and the Union Flag, but I am also represented by the Gaelic language, Gaelic games, Irish dancing the shamrock and Guinness. I support Ulster Rugby and the Ireland Rugby tea;, I want to see Northern Ireland football team do well as I do the English, Welsh and Scottish teams - to a lesser degree the Ireland Football team. I've never been to any Gaelic games but neither have I been to a cricket match. 
In the end I am a confident unionist - not because of my religion but because I believe Northern Ireland will prosper as part of the UK. 
I want our unique identity to grow to become something we are all proud off from all corners of this small country. Do I believe that is a widespread view - yes I do. But like everything he who shouts the loudest seems to get heard and those who want Northern Ireland to succeed for everyone just get on with making it succeed. It's time to stop listening to the shouters."
BJS: "What are your hopes for the future of this divided province and island?" DB:
"I don't view Northern Ireland as a province, I view it as a country equal yet separate from the Republic of Ireland and and equal partner within the UK. 
For those who live here I want one country, one identity, one educational system and an understanding of difference. A recognition that Northern Ireland as a country has the right to exist and that while the majority want it then it should remain part of the UK. 
I want to be able to go to all parts of my country without feeling nervous or out of place and be proud to say I'm a soldier - which I am. I want to be proud of what we achieve, let our sporting achievements, arts, history and culture define and speak for us. 
I want a country with a good work ethic defined by a working class that are respected, represented and rewarded for that hard work. They are, and will always be, the backbone of a prosperous Northern Ireland. 
We need equality, a change in the law in respect to same sex marriage and abortion but at the same time respect for those who feel their deep religious views cannot bring them to vote for change on some social issues. 
In the end it's 'Respect for others and respect for difference' that will help Northern Ireland prosper."
BJS: "Please share any further thoughts these questions may have stimulated." DB:
"Throughout this online interview I have used the term rising but I feel it was a rebellion. I use the term rising because I feel if language can help us understand better and make conversations less combative then we should attempt to do that. 
I use the term Ireland, sometimes Irish Republic and often Republic of Ireland. But in the end I understand Ireland as a separate sovereign country to Northern Ireland and I respect it; it's culture, identity and language. 
I do not use any term that I feel would be viewed as derogatory or offend anyone."
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