Jude Collins

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The day partition died

Sometimes it's easy to believe that the partition of Ireland has worked. In the north for fifty years, it allowed unionists to discriminate and gerrymander at will;  in the south,  Fianna Fail became so used to power, cronyism and corruption, they rotted the state.  And as if that weren't bad enough, there were nominal nationalists in the north who not-so-secretly adopted a, what will we say, an attitude of superiority to the people in the south. They don't have our quality of education, they tend to be more devious than we straight-talking northerners, they aren't as hard-working or reliable as we are. That's so-called nationalists, remember. In the recent presidential election, the south returned the compliment in spades, Mary McAleese was an intruder from 'up there' but somehow she'd turned out to be the exception that proved the rule and really was pure gold. Martin McGuinness, however,  was definitely from 'up there' and he was just bringing his northern 'baggage' of violence and division, the man can't even tell the truth, we want no part of him - or any of yez. Go back up where yez belong. The border might not be visible when you drive from Derry to Buncrana or Belfast to Dublin, but the sense of difference is alive and kicking and hoping to grow stronger every day.

Or so it can seem, until a day like yesterday comes along. I still have reservations about Michael D Higgins  - far from being humble, as Enda Kenny suggested, he obviously is a small man with a very big opinion of himself - but there was no doubt in yesterday's inauguration ceremonies that he was indeed the President of Ireland. Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness, Alasdair McDonnell, Tom Elliot  - they were all there, and there was a sense of rejoicing in the Irishness that unites us all. A good day, for all its dampness.

And then, to round things off, there was last night in Estonia. The team may call itself the Republic of Ireland, but it could save space and ink by calling itself simply 'Ireland'. They were cheered on by thousands of southern suppporters and northern supporters who'd made a 17-hour journey together to get there; they were cheered again by tens of thousands of Irish people north and south here at home, who punched the air and kicked imaginary balls around the living-room and woke the baby with off-key choruses of 'The Fields of Athenry'.  Was this our team? You bet it was.  Were we not uneasy about supporting the team from the south? Not for a moment. Just as players from anywhere on the island of Ireland are eligible to play for Trappatoni's team, so supporters from anywhere and everywhere on the island of Ireland were so filled with delight and pride and anticipation of even better things to come, they could have floated to the ceiling and stuck there.

That's sport for you, particularly team sports. It draws us all in, and the divisions that some politicians and a considerable section of the media would like to nurture between north and south  - they melt like morning mist in a strong sun, like the glorious sun that's shining in my wet garden as I type these words.

They say the very basis of logic is that a thing can't be true and not be true at the same time. True. But life is sometimes larger than logic. Yes, partition exists; at the same time and on  glorious, golden occasions like yesterday,  it doesn't.

OK,  the temptation's too strong - I'll say it. Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time?


  1. No it wouldn't...there is a sizable majority who don't regard michael d as their president and although the south has it attractions most people in the north have no desire to join the south culturally or economically.
    It would be analogous as Germany joining Greece in an ill advised economic union.
    So as attractive as the celebrations in Dublin and the progression of the ROI into the European finals are to your narrow eyes the political reality is that you live in the UK with all the benefits that brings.
    By all means dream Jude...

  2. I'm amazed, Anon 13:24. I was under the impression that Higgins was elected with the biggest number of votes ever received in an Irish presidential election, which sounds like a sizeable majority to me. But I must have got that wrong...

  3. Apologies Jude I should have clarified the use of majority...I meant and implied a majority in northern Ireland (where you live)
    Unfortunately for yourself michael d has no remit in NI,however feel free to fantasise that he is your president if it makes you feel more Irish.
    It's a pity your passion for a fantasy version of Ireland could not be harnessed to work for a fully integrated NI and leave behind the pipe dream of a united Ireland that nobody really wants....be it London Dublin or even and let's be honest here a significant percentage of Catholics.
    I'm down south a lot and they very much draw back from any notion of taking on the north....so it ain't gonna happen,just accept reality.

  4. Anon 19:21 - no need to apologise and thanks for your take on things. I don't agree with your conclusions although I think you're pretty on the ball re the south and the general feeling there about the north. And I agree - there's a need for us in the north to know and respect each other more. My suggestion - just two starting points: (i) Allow all presenters appearing on-screen in the BBC to wear a poppy or not, as they choose (and yes, it IS a political symbol here, whether we like it or not); (ii) Allow anyone who wants to wear an Easter lily to likewise follow his or her inclinations, without being accused of subversion/aggressive nationalism/honouring murderers/etc. What do you say?

  5. Don't know how we got to poppies Jude but I'll run with it...
    The poppy issue has been exploited by cynical nationalists as an opportunity to kick the Brits,anyone who could be offended by remembering an 18 year old who gave his life to defeat fascism has deeper issues.
    By the same token remembering 1916 is perfectly valid although just has the poppy been disgraced by loyalists linking it to themselves the Easter lily has been devalued by present day republicans linking it to their campaign.
    The reason presenters on the BBC wear a poppy is because the BBC is the national broadcaster and the wearing of the poppy promotes national cohesion and the remembering of the national dead.
    Now I respect your decision to shun that rememberence as you feel like a stranger in NI however and I know it's a cliche but there were a lot of young guys who decided that it might be good idea to take a stand against fascism,the result of that global sacrifice is your present day freedom.
    That said if you feel better not to remember that it's your call.

  6. OK Anon. Interesting thoughts. Let me add a little to that.

    The poppy has not, repeat not, been exploited by cynical nationalists. The poppy is to honour those who fought and died in the British armed forces. The British armed forces don't have a terribly good historical record in Ireland, so it's hardly surprising that perfectly un-cynical nationalists would baulk at the notion of wearing it. As to 18-year-olds who gave their lives to defeat fascism - that's to select one war, whereas the poppy honours ALL British armed forces' actions. So let's not mistake the part for the whole.

    I see nothing disgraceful in loyalists wearing poppies if they want to, just as I see nothing disgraceful in republicans wearing Easter lilies. I hope you're not suggesting that if you wear a poppy you're honouring it while if a loyalist wears it s/he is disgracing it?

    The BBC is indeed the British Broadcasting Corporation. I fail to see the logic of concluding that therefore mandatory wearing of poppies by all on-screen presenters should follow. Not only is it illogical, it's decidedly dangerous: next thing you know, you'd have to have a British passport or be a member of a unionist party or otherwise confirm your pro-Britishness. Not a good idea, I think, and weak reasoning in the first instance.

    I think you're being a little presumptuous when you tell me I 'feel like a stranger in NI'. I've lived here most of my life - born in Donegal, lived in Tyrone, school in Derry, university in Dublin. This is my home. I might not be 'maitre chez moi' but I'm certainly not a stranger.

    You repeat the anti-fascism thing again but I think I've dealt with that above.

    Your final sentence, I'm afraid, is again presumptuous. How do you know I don't 'remember'? There are tens of thousands of people on this island who (like myself) had relatives lose their lives in a filthy imperial war at the start of this century. Despite media insistence, those thousands didn't air-brush the memory of their grandfathers or great-grandfathers from their consciousness. The fact that they didn't choose to remember them by wearing a poppy or laying a wreath doesn't mean they didn't remember them or continue to mourn their meaningless slaughter. And for anyone to suggest otherwise is truly insulting.

    I once interviewed Maeve Binchy and she told me that when she had some writing work waiting to be done, she suddenly found it very important to start cleaning the oven, a task she normally detested. I'm afraid you're my oven today, Anon. Enough already.

  7. Oh for gods sake,I agree this is becoming tedious...nobody asks you or forces you to wear a poppy,so you as a nationalist "baulking" at wearing the poppy is a nonsense,you imply that somebody wants you to wear one....they don't,however maybe just for one year people like yourself would not use it as a political football.
    As for my reference to loyalists what I meant was groups like the uda will today have remembrance ceremonies which will imply linkage between their dead and British army dead.
    That is pretty obscene.
    As for the BBC people who you believe hate wearing the poppy but do not have the strength of conviction to make a stand,well that says a lot about their moral character.
    For the record if I was presenting RTE news coverage and there was an obligation to wear an Easter lily over the Easter period I would do it because it would be disrespectful not to.
    As for your oven reference,I know how you feel,The Great Escape is starting soon on channel 5 and I would like to enjoy it....name dropping Maeve Binchy,don't make me laugh Jude...I once shared a railway platform with noddy holder,top that!!

  8. Eoghan Harris: "I wear the poppy to antagonise any Provos about the place".

  9. Anonymous is incredibly obtuse and WRONG in his assertion that Michael D Higgins is not the President of Irish citizens in the north. He is the President of all Irish citizens wherever they live in the world!

    The GFA states you can be British or Irish if born in the six counties. To then say the Irish President is not the President of Irish citiziens in the north is akin to denying the reality of the Good Friday Agreement. What ignorance!

    He is Jude's President, and every other Irish citizen's President. He may not be the President of the state they reside in, be it NI or America or Austraia, but he is their President if they are Irish citizens.