I was one of those who signed that letter to Leo Varadkar ( aka ‘the Indian’, if you’re Lord Kilclooney, aka John Taylor) which appeared in the Irish News (aka the Venerable Organ [VO]) yesterday. I approved all that it said: it really is time that our Irish identity was acknowledged and protected north and south of the border. The key word in the letter, in my view, was ‘abandonment’.
I don’t believe the average southerner has given thought to the sense of near-betrayal felt when Northern Ireland (aka our North-East Nest [NEN]) was created. If s/he had, they would have felt a sense of guilt and, one would hope, would have spent less time bewailing unionist fears and more considering the plight into which they plunged Irish nationalists in the north when they passed them into the tender care of Stormont unionism. Fifty years of sectarianism and discrimination, followed by assaults on those who tried to reform these injustices peacefully, then thirty further years when the violence in the north was condemned as the barbarity of the IRA, as though that violence had sprung into existence out of an ahistorical vacuum.
There are two truths about southern nationalism. One is that its political leaders will do nothing about northern nationalism except pressured into it. Why would they? Were the goal of a reunited Ireland to become reality, the entire political set-up, so happily tweedledum and tweedledeeing in the Dail for decades, would be radically changed And if there’s one thing southern politicians don’t like it’s change.
But then again, people tend to accept you as you present yourself. If you continually present yourself as a helpless victim, that’s what people will tend to receive you as. A frequent southern jibe is that northern nationalists present themselves as MOPEs – the Most Oppressed People Ever.
That day has ended. Nationalists and republicans in the north have found their feet and their voice. They have a clear sense of their own culture and their own worth. From now, no one is going to mock or misrepresent them without being challenged. In fact, it’s thanks to northern nationalism that Fine Gael and other southern political parties feel compelled to point to their chests and say “Oh yes, couldn’t agree more – sure aren’t we republicans too.”
There is nothing that would do southern politics more good than an infusion of northern political talent. And there is nothing that would do northern politics more good than to see itself as part of a wider, more dynamic Ireland, rather than the inward-looking tormented Orange corner it now is.
But I hear Bob Dylan on the wind. The times they are indeed a-changing.
[I haven\t a copy of the letter to hand but here’s a BBC website report on it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-42306297