New unionist lobby group set up in Republic

Tue, May 26, 1998, 01:00

The alteration of the national anthem, rejoining the Commonwealth and the abolition of the Irish-language requirement for Civil Service employees are among changes being sought by a new unionist lobby group in the Republic.

The Reform movement, describing itself as a coalition of "new unionists for the new millennium", was inaugurated in Dublin yesterday.

Mr David Christopher (20), its chairman, said that it wished to challenge prejudices and divisions between nationalists and unionists in the Republic. "We challenge, but we do not threaten. We threaten nobody's identity, nobody's sense of nationhood, nobody's sense of belonging."

Ms Anne Holliday, who described herself as "a member of the Irish minority that the Belfast Agreement forgot", said that unionists in the Republic appeared to have been "wiped out of this country's collective memory".

Ms Holliday, who is a member of Fine Gael and a founding member of the Peace Train and New Consensus groups, also said that RTE should drop the Angelus, as it was "symbolic of the main religion".

Welcoming the outcome of the Belfast Agreement referendums, the group said that it looked forward to the creation of a Council of the British Isles. It called for the extension of full British citizenship rights to those who wanted this in the Republic. Its other proposals include:

The appointment of a senior official in the Department of the Taoiseach with special responsibility for minority affairs.

Legislative change so that five of the 11 senators currently nominated by the Taoiseach would be drawn from minority groups.

State support for Ulster-Scots speakers in the Republic.

Increased resources for the Garda to help it tackle crime and terrorism.