Are we a parochial people? I would say so. We think in local terms, sometimes at the expense of the bigger picture. I remember an ex-student of mine complaining that there were no English teacher jobs going. “But I thought I saw an ad for an English teacher in Enniskillen the other day” I said.
“That’s no good - I’d have to leave Belfast if I got it” the young woman told me. And if you haven’t seen the Gaelic football rivalry between different clubs/parishes in Tyrone or Derry, you’ve led a sheltered life.
There’s a plus to all this. The fact that people tend to stay as close to their place of origin as possible makes for tightly-knit communities. Nobody gets born, married or dies without, to a greater or lesser extent, the whole community being part of it. People fit into a network that sometimes extends back several generations.
The downside is that we begin to think that all things of value reside where we reside, and the further we get from our home base, the more uneasy and critical we become. I remember going to Canada in the late 1960s and noticing that a lot of the men wore big, obvious rings. Graduation rings, I think they were. Instead of accepting that this was part of their culture, I inwardly felt contempt for people who had such poor taste in personal accessories.
We’re told we all now live in a global village. If that’s true, it’s a village with a lot of very high walls between neighbours. We’re used to the parochialism of those who think that south of the border is a foreign country, that they talk funny down there and that they’re all lazy shysters who would steal the eye out of your head. Ian Paisley Jr was on the radio this morning. He was being asked about the up-coming development of the Frosses Road in north Antrim - he’s the MP for the area. Naturally he was all for it, emphasised the value of it in many ways. Then he was asked what he felt about this money coming at the expense of the development/non-development of the A5 road as a western transport corridor. I can’t remember Ian Óg’s exact words but he said in effect that he couldn't care less about the A5 development, he was just pleased to have the Frosses development.
No politician opens his/her mouth without thought at some level as to how this will go down with his/her constituents. You can see how Ian Óg believes his constituents think. It's called the laager mentality.