ALLOW me, for the avoidance of doubt, to state my position clearly. I want to see everyone seize the opportunity to be educated to the highest possible level regardless of their background and have the choice to enter professional vocations. I am particularly keen to see young people from working-class communities succeed through education.

I must again stress that all of this has nothing to do with religion. The contested nature of Northern Ireland is not a matter of religious theology, but of national identity. Some of the strongest trade unionists I know are of the Catholic faith.

Interestingly, in 2018, nationalists within the professional class had no issues identified by their political agenda. Indeed, many signed a nationalist letter to the Irish Prime Minister – published in the same newspaper – which identified people by their profession.

In this case, there were no complaints regarding the identification of signatories to the law, the media and academia by virtue of their professional activity. Rather, their profession was used to give credit to the content of the letter. Simply put: Professional status was used to advance a political cause. And this is where my point lies.

My transmission to the Unionist Voice Policy Studies report stated that there is clearly an elite (albeit informal) nationalist network in which a significant number of people use the credentials offered by their status (quite legitimately obtained and hard-earned) within these professional vocations to advance nationalism. political goals.

This develops into a network of influence due to shared political goals and ideas acting as a platform and accreditation mechanism for material (or people) conducive to the cause. And this, in turn, influences the political and legal direction of the company, as decision-makers will draw on the dominant intellectual capital produced by academic groups, lobbyists, litigation and what is most put forward by the media and approved by the “commentariat”.

Trade unionists don’t, or if they did, they don’t anymore. In particular and initially in our university student unions which developed a cooling factor which reduced the registration of unionists. The long march through the institutions advocated by the Marxist philosopher Gramsci, so dear to President Higgins, is well underway and is increasingly expressed in this new majority perspective.

I note that when loyalists or trade unionists appear in the media, they are labeled by their political affiliation (eg, militant loyalist), but nationalists are given a neutral descriptor such as “political commentator”. There is not yet a satisfactory explanation for this obvious disparity, especially in BBC NI.

It is a subtle way of promoting certain points of view and conversely of distorting or delegitimizing others as being purely partisan.

It is a question of most compelling logic that if you control the construction of the dominant intellectual capital, accredited by the academic, media and legal worlds, which will ultimately be used by those in power, then you are exerting a powerful influence.

I do not blame the nationalists for the existence of this network and for using this tactic to their political goals. Such an approach is not a new phenomenon – we see it in America with the partisan nature of the media and the law and various competing influence networks (such as the Federalist Society and the American Constitutional Society).

In Northern Ireland, the reality is that there is no equivalent network of union activists using access and referrals obtained through professional grade positions to advance the cause of unionism. And this is where the imbalance lies.

However, I urge trade unionists and loyalists to counter this with similar activism in the fields of law, academia and the media.

This is a very legitimate position to express, and indeed the problem has been demonstrated by the way in which the aforementioned elite network has taken action in seeking to distort the context of my remarks, and thus put end of debate on this issue.