Friday, 4 October 2019

A Coiling Spring

I am in Ireland at the momment, an Ireland where below the surface you can sense the pressure rise over whether the Northern Counties will go with UK Brexit or once and for all time get rid of the UK Government border in Ireland.

There are little things, after seven years of regularly visiting family in the North, I am noticing. I walked past the local Catholic Primary at the bottom of my daughter's street and some of those at the gate waiting for their kids to come out eyed me up. I was not from around here, they did not know me, it was not so much hatred as concern in the eyes that met mine. Then one of the Mum's saw my dog, another recognised me from previous visits and there was a palpable sigh and a relaxation.

The town where my daughter stays is pretty well 50:50 with a couple of religious ghetto's where hatred still lies at the surface and flags abound during the marching season. The town has had its sorrows. An IRA car bombing of the local mayor and president of the local Orange Lodge and his wife, a retaliatory UDF drive by on a "Catholic" pub in the town in which one of my daughter's partner's uncles was killed having a pint after work. All in the late 70's and early 80's but still sore. Wounds with a thinly scabbed crust which will not take much picking to become an open wound again.

I went for a drink, on my own, the looks were there as I went to the bar, then my Scottish accent eased the atmosphere and I was asked was I over on holiday. I replied I was over looking after my grandson.

"Oh, what age will he be?"

"He's just started Primary."

"Which one will that be?"

The million dollar question still in Northern Ireland is "What school?"

I told them it was the new non-denominational primary school in the town. That left them in a quandary as to whether I was a "taig" or a "prod", there remained a blurry line they were not used to, a line which is very common now in my daughter and her partner's generation who have mostly known peace but also know what it is like when things go wrong. They are looking forward to when the line is no longer "blurry" but gone completely but worry the nutters on both sides of the divide, the "RA" and "UDF", are re-arming, looking to put the dividing line back by force.

It is into this brew of concern, worries and nutters looking for an excuse that Boris Johnson's rehashed plan on a border solution for Brexit lands.  My daughter's partner's brother calls it "an absolute clusterfuck" in a conversation with me. The only people this rehashed and already rejected (twice) plan for the border will encourage is the nutters, is his view. It has little to do with what Northern Ireland wants and everything to do with placating the DUP. How can an assembly that has not sat for the best part of three years ratify Boris' plan for the border?

The husband of my daughter's friend, while walking the dogs behind Belfast Castle, started a conversation about Brexit. I was surprised because my daughter had asked me to avoid any such talk. He confessed that his dead father, East Belfast born and bred, would be spinning in his grave if he knew his son would vote for a United Ireland, given the chance. His job takes him all over the EU but mainly handling contracts in Ireland, many of them only getting off the ground courtesy of EU seed funding. He likes the outward looking Northern Ireland that has arisen from the ashes of the "Troubles" and only sees the abyss opening up again if Northern Ireland is dragged out of the EU by Brexit.

I have a sense he represents the silent majority in Northern Ireland on both side of the still present religious divide.

Without Stormont and its assembly they have no voice to challenge the Boris' Irish Bullshit. There is a sense of powerlessness as a result of the high profile the DUP are being given by the UK Government, the DUP, a group of politicians still stuck in the divide of the Northern Ireland of the "Troubles", no longer representative of the silent majority of people in Northern Ireland's desire for continuing peace and to continue to resolve the tricky issue of reconciliation between communities.

Boris Johnson's Brexit will do little to help the growth of an outward looking Northern Ireland and do much to trigger the nutter's on both sides to resume tit-for-tat violence that scarred the people of the North and South for so long in the 70's and 80's.