If you want a comparison between the south of Ireland and our own little North-Eastern Nest (NEN), you could do worse than check out the different between Dublin airport and Belfast International airport.
It tells you something about the insecurity of our NEN authorities that Belfast, which doesn’t fly to anywhere near as many international destinations as does Dublin, has an ‘International’ in its name – and Dublin doesn’t bother. It’s like people who insist on writing their degrees after their name: if they’re any good, we’ll find out by their performance, not by the zimmerframe letters they find the need to lean on.
That’s not to say that Belfast International airport hasn’t come on a great deal in the past twenty years. It looks and feels like a real airport, and it has holiday flights to a good range of countries. But if you check out Dublin airport, you’ll find they can get you to the US and Canada, of course, but also to Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore. And a lot, lot more. Plus in terms of the US, you get through all the tedious clearance in Dublin, thus avoiding the jet-lagged horror of immigration at JFK airport. We speak of how Belfast has been transformed in recent years, and there’s truth in that. But a visit to Dublin airport shows you the humming pace at which people fly into and out of the capital.
In more general terms: In 2015, the south’s economy grew at almost three times the rate of that in the north – 5.8% as opposed to 1.7%. And this, remember, when the south was just emerging from near-fatal financial meltdown.
But one recent news item about Dublin airport caught my eye: it’s about the bees. (No, Virginia, not the b******s that will be broken by equality – the bees with wings and a sting.) You’ll know that the bee population in the world has declined alarmingly, and without bees to keep the cycle of pollination going, the world would be facing global catastrophe. Well, Dublin airport (of all places) has done something about it.
They’ve established a bee aviary at the airport. There are now some 250,000 of the little critters zipping around hundreds of thousands of flowers, making honey like there was no tomorrow (which, thanks to them there may be). They were installed by airport engineer Colm Fogarty and he’s recently collected the first honey harvest. He’s called it Nect-air (geddit?) which we’re told “has a pleasantly mild, gently sweet flavour, along with its rich texture, warming amber hue, delicate aroma and slightly nutty undertone”. The airport managing director Vincent Harrison says that “this is testament to the fact that the air quality and surrounding vegetation at Dublin airport is excellent for the bees to pollinate.” Who knew?
I think this is a cheering little venture to find among the whining jet engines and throngs of travellers, and shows Irish imagination and industry at its best.
Meanwhile, up here, we’re stuck in a rut with a unionist party propping up a Tory party whose prime minister and secretary of state think nothing of telling porkies so obvious and huge, a colony of sewer rats could feed on them for a month.