On the 11 January 2019 the Sullivan Upper Politics Society welcomed Irish Senator Ian Marshall, the first independent Unionist to be elected to the Irish senate. Ian talked about his thoughts on reforming the structure of Stormont with the inclusion of an upper chamber equivalent to the House of Lords or the Irish Senate with the opportunity for experienced members to play a role in the amending of bills, however, he disagrees with the inclusion of hereditary peers in the House of Lords.
He also discussed his role in the Irish Senate working there on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then in QUB on a Friday. He discussed the sense of unity in the Irish Parliament between parties and the lack of sectarianism and the diversity of Dublin. He stated there was no hidden agenda in Irish politics to try and reunite Ireland and the lack of desire for a United Ireland also in Northern Ireland.
Under the topic of Brexit, he discussed the steps the Irish government was taking to protect Irish businesses including setting aside €300 million with the risk of a hard border. He voiced his support for a second EU referendum to “validate” the first referendum and that the EU and Ireland wanted the UK to remain in the EU and that without the UK the power in the EU lay in the German-Franco relationship. He also mentioned the need for the Conservative government to successfully negotiate Brexit as failing to do so may have further implications for the party with the potential to not be in government for decades.
Ian then discussed the need for devolution to return to Stormont, and the need for the “silent majority” to stand up against the polarisation of NI politics. He also talked about the issue of symbolism in NI and the weaponisation of the Irish language, also with the need to educate young people about the legacy of the Troubles. Ian also mentioned the absorption of culture in NI from previous generations and the need for young people to move forward towards a brighter future for NI.