There’s a story told about James II as he was fleeing from the Battle of the Boyne. He needed to get across the river at a particularly wide point, and quick, so he hired this ferryman. After a while the ferryman looked over his shoulder and said “Here – I know you. You’re James II! Wait ’til I tell the wife! So listen – how did the battle go? Who won?” James fixed him with a very stony stare and said “Never you mind who won the battle. No matter who won it, you’ll still be just the ferryman”.
Feeling cynical? Here’s some ammo. “Don’t vote – it only encourages them”. “If voting changed anything, they’d have banned it years ago”. Very droll. With an element of truth. But 99.9% bullshit.
Politics is the best we have. Of course it’s possible to wish things were better. If you’re a unionist, it’d be nice if the last forty years hadn’t happened and Basil Brooke’s great-grandson was being groomed to take over and keep the taigs where they belong. If you’re a nationalist, it’d be nice if the last forty years had resulted in a reunited Ireland, with a transformed south as well as a transformed north, where bigotry and discrimination were as popular as drink-driving and self-harming. But that ain’t where we are right now.
On the other hand, tthings are better. The Orange state, as Sinn Féin frequently points out, has been dismantled. The DUP has decided it makes sense to work for the common good with those they disagree with. The sight of fourteen Sinn Féin TDs arriving in Stormont to pose for a picture with their northern colleagues sent a strong signal that reunification is still central to Shinner policy.
Are we near to reunification? No, but we’re a lot nearer than we were forty years ago. Are we near to equality? No, but we’re a lot nearer than we were forty years ago. The catch with sitting by the TV being cynical is that other people get out and shape things the way they want them. If we stay ferrymen, it’s because we choose to stay ferrymen.
And don’t – pu-LEASE don’t say “I think it’s going to rain today”. Remember whose anniversary it is today? Remember the four votes that pushed Michelle Gildernew over the line in Fermanagh/South Tyrone last time out? Get off your jaundiced arse and down to the polling centre this minute.