Yesterday on BBC Radio Ulster’s (sic) ‘Sunday Sequence’ they were talking about the number of legally-held firearms in the north, and today Tom Kelly in the Venerable Organ was on about the same thing. The Sunday Sequence discussion put the figure at 150,000; Kelly in the VO puts it at 200,000. The point is, this society is weighed-down with weapons. Even if you take the lower figure of 150,000, that’s a firearm for – blimey – every ten people in this statelet. When I wrote on this topic in the VO about ten years ago, I was informed irritably that these guns were held by decent farmers who used them for shooting crows. If that’s true, Alfred Hitchock should have filmed ‘The Birds’ here: the skies must be thick with the buggers if farmers need all those guns to keep them under control. One fact that ‘Sunday Sequence’ and the VO don’t mention is that the vast majority of the gun-holders are Protestant/unionists. That of course is easily explained: crows are instinctively drawn to Protestant farmland in much higher numbers than to land owned by Catholics.
Aside from crow-shooting, what other use might the owners of the guns have for them? For the answer to that, think about the 5,000 heavily-armed foreign soldiers based in this part of Ireland. What use might they have for their weapons? The answer to that is also the answer to the first question.