It’s funny the things you hear on our national broadcaster (No, Virginia, I’m talking about RTÉ). On Saturday I was listening to The Marian Finucane Show and she was talking about Scottish independence. I can’t remember the exact words but they amounted to “Well, the Scots have voted down independence and we here in Ireland have it, but what kind of independence is it or have we independence at all at all?” At this point I sat up in my chaise longue and put away the peeled grapes. This was major: an icon of Irish broadcasting on live radio, about to mention for the first time that we in the north were as Irish as those in the south, and that while 26 counties had won independence almost 100 years ago, 6 northern counties remained attached to London. There was a pause, while Marian took another big breath and I waited, all ears. Then: “I mean with the state of the banks and us at the mercy of the troika and all those tens of billions we have to pay back, you’d wonder what sort of independence we have at all at all! I mean wouldn’t you?”.
It’s what you call one-eyed vision. The degree to which the south is independent is indeed up for question, given that the Irish people have to pay off billions in debt that they never occurred, and that they have regular visitors from Europe to see that they’re good little boys and girls and stumping up. But no mention of the north in terms of Irish independence or lack of it. We might be Irish but as far as Marian is concerned, we’re no part of Ireland.
Then last night I was watching RTÉ’s Prime Time, where a studio audience was mulling over the conditions of the water charge. You didn’t know they’re all set to charge for water in the south? Oh yes. Meters have been installed and exemptions announced and all the rest. The studio audience, unlike earlier audiences, had clearly given up on complaining that the life was being squeezed out of them by other taxes, shouldn’t the water be paid for out of that? No, their concern now was reduced to the the fact that it stated, in black and white, that the details about themselves and their bank account which they shared with Bord Uisce/Irish Water could be passed on to people and bodies outside the EU. Wasn’t this an invasion of privacy? What business had Bord Uisce amassing this information? Or worse still, passing it on? A blonde little PR cutie from Bord Uisce explained: if there was some glitch in their electronic system, they might well have to call in people in, say, America to fix it. These people could view Irish people’s details – they’d have to, to fix the glitch – but that was a different matter from that data being transferred. Get it?
Well actually no. If I have access to your details, and am entitled to do so by law, what’s to prevent me making a nice little copy of your details. You haven’t transferred it to me, you’ve just let me see it and I’ve just made a little copy. What on earth could be wrong with that?
Outrageous, you say, Virginia? Breath-taking? I’ll tell you what was more breath-taking: nobody in the audience stood up and said “Enough of this arrant poppycock! You’re charging us for our water at a time when we’re on our financial knees, you say you’re not passing our private details on to others, but if they can see our details then of course they can make a record of our details. Enough of this evasive, fork-tongued horse-dung!”
So that’s what independence looks like . National wind-pipe in the iron grip of Europe, shops closing and people falling into debt and homelessness, and a refusal to acknowledge the existence of tens of thousands of Irish people living north of the border as being their fellow countrymen and women. Was there ever such a partitionist parcel of rogues in charge of a 26-county state? Answers on a post-card, please. On second thoughts, don’t bother, – I couldn’t cope with the truckloads of angry mail.