Last night: on the couch me and the cat, on the telly Michael McDowell

It must be hard these days to be a bread-and-butter person, especially if you live in our little NE Nest. Bread-and-butter people have always urged our politicians and the electorate to focus on practical matters: having a job, being able to feed and clothe your family, paying the mortgage. Steering clear of  out-moded rubbish about Irish reunification and what flag flies above us and whether partition should stay or end.

Why is it hard to maintain this food-on-the-table approach? Because it’s suddenly becoming clear that the day-to-day is inextricably linked with what some have been wont to declare grandiose and out-moded.

Let me give you an example. Last night, around eleven o’clock, my cat passed out. We’d been sitting watching The View (yes, sad isn’t the word), when without warning, Michael McDowell came on. You’ll remember Michael. Used to head up the Progressive Democrats in the south,  spent much of his time scoffing at republicans and particularly Gerry Adams, for going on about a united Ireland. Last night Michael looked redder in the face and much plumper, but that wasn’t what stunned my cat. It was that Michael was explaining how, since Brexit, the whole question of Irish reunification was now much more likely. “Say whaaaat?!” the cat screeched in Siamese before falling rigid on its back, paws in the air.

And it’s not just McDowell. People who scorned the debate over the constitutional question as a reactionary waste of time are now suddenly realizing that the existence of the border, and the kind of border, could have big ramifications for all of us.

Complicated? Not really. Those who have argued for the union with Britain have done so on two grounds: we’re British and besides, who wants to be dragged down by a bankrupt republic? Since Brexit, the situation has flipped. Those who see themselves as British are being urged by their politicians (Good morning, Ian) to get themselves Irish passports. The more pronounced the border, which once protected British citizens in the north from the Popeheads of the south, the worse news it is for bread-and-butter people on both sides of the border. We in the NE nest have expressed the wish to stay in the EU with all its economic advantages, but now must prepare to be dragged out of the EU by… Mother Britain. While the UK economy goes down the tubes and takes us with it – in fact, we’ll be the first region to hurtle into the sewage system – the south will retain the benefits of being an EU member, and will  benefit and grow fat as hard-headed multinational companies  take flight from Go-It-Alone Britain and seek a place south of our border.

There’s no dodging it: John Hume’s da was right. You can’t eat a flag. But in the next five years, the flag flying over us will make a huge difference on our ability to have a job and feed our families. Gregory Campbell once told me it didn’t matter how much better off the south was than here,  we’d still not want to join with them in a new Ireland. As my former colleague at the VO Brian Feeney has pondered, might a few years eating grass  change a few minds?

12 Responses to Last night: on the couch me and the cat, on the telly Michael McDowell

  1. Eolach May 12, 2017 at 11:02 am #

    Do these reactionary gob-shites know something we don’t ? Why would west brits be talking about a united country ? Someone as right wing as Mc Dowell talking sense scares me. I’m going to have to consult the Oracle

  2. John May 12, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    Gregory Campbell would rather eat grass Jude.
    It would allow him to invoke memories of the “brave apprentice boys” who starved and ate rats rather than open the gates of Derry.
    As his former dup mla, Nelson McCausland stated, ” I don’t care how many jobs may be lost over brexit, it’s worth it”

  3. Jack Black May 12, 2017 at 11:41 am #

    When Brexit begins to bite John we all know Nelson and Greg will deny saying such things and claim their comments were taken out of context, that’s what they have always done if you read up on their past.

  4. Cal May 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    Greg 3 pensions will be just fine regardless of the results of brexit.

  5. Kieran Maxwell May 12, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

    Hi Jude,

    Just a thought- while all the recent talk about a UI from, shall we say, “unusual quarters” is welcome; the thing that has struck me as possibly worrisome is that it’s ONLY due to economics! The selfish bastards are only thinking of themselves!

    So while I personally support the discussion around a UI, at the same time I think it’s vitally important to give equal stress to the cultural links and bonds that we have and to remember the wrong that was done in the serpration of our country. We must remind, in a fraternal way, our fellow country men and women in the south of the loss to them that was foisted upon them after partition i.e. us! They lost us and that has undoubtedly damaged the trajectory of Irish culture over the last 100 years. Reunification has to be sold as a cultural benefit as much as an economic one!

  6. Mark Petticrew May 12, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

    There are those who after a few years of eating grass may well be materially encouraged to look south, but not unionists; their loyalty to the union being coated in a sentiment that cannot be bought. The focus for united Irelanders, therefore, should be on non-unionists, namely naysaying nationalists and the flegless middle ground.

    A December 2016 LT poll illustrated the impact that Brexit is already having in focusing nationalist minds on Irish unification; alongside 26.8% who were already in favour of it, 67.6% of those categorised as “broadly nationalist” were said to be considering a united Ireland in the wake of last year’s vote to leave the EU.

    Combine the evident potential for maximum nationalist engagement in Irish unification post-Brexit alongside a portion of Alliance types that may prioritise EU membership over the union, and therein lies what could be the winning formula of a border poll in a decade or two’s time.

    • Am Ghobsmacht May 12, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

      Spot on Mark, spot on.

  7. Michael May 12, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

    For many of us in the NE nest the border has been a significant problem to life and prosperity for near a century.
    Now that the border is gonna be a problem to life and prosperity for some of those in the south they are suddenly interested in how “hard” it will be.

    Who’d a thunk it?!

  8. Sherdy May 12, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    Jude, I like your picture of Mickey Mac, who looks as though he has just been greeted by Donald Trump, mistaking his sex!
    As far as the new converts to the idea of UI is concerned, I wonder if some apparently disconnected items may actually have a connection.
    Charlie Windsor and his wife arrived in NI a few days ago, spent one day here and then crossed the border for three days, during which Gerry Adams was invited to the British Ambassador’s residence for a handshake, a chat and the offer of condolence over the death of the late Marty.
    Also today, one of Charlie’s sons spent the day with his wife at the Balmoral agricultural show.
    Two separate ‘royal’ visits in the one week make me wonder at the sudden British interest (but not from Theresa May) in our welfare.
    I remember some years ago the caution that in such circumstances, when we are supposed to look in the royal direction, we should be looking around in other directions to see what their politicians were planning or doing to/against us!
    Should we beware or be hopeful? Who knows – time will tell!

  9. Am Ghobsmacht May 12, 2017 at 5:37 pm #

    I know of quite a few people of a nominally unionist background who, on the question of a UI are ‘bovvered’.

    They’d seamlessly switch their professional/arty/middleclass existence for one in the south.

    Their major concerns are being seen as ‘losers’ and a few symbolic nik-naks here and there.

    In the same way that the unionists could end the debate quickly if they turned unionism into an all encompassing ideology so too could nationalists if they targeted the ‘small u unionists’.

    But, like unionists with their fleggers, nationalism has a hysterical element which sees common sense political manoeuvring as ‘pandering’.

    Sort out the screamers and their ‘our day will come’ mentality then you’ve got a united Ireland in the bag.

    • billy May 12, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

      you cant start applying the bandage until the foreign object is removed.

    • Colmán May 13, 2017 at 11:37 pm #

      I think commemorations should be confined to Easter Sunday and Bodenstown, And I don’t place a terrible amount of importance on the tricolour or any flag for that matter.