Whatever is the reverse of patriotism, Fionola Meredith appears to be in its iron grip. This morning’s Irish Times carries an article by her headed ‘Southerners should be careful what they wish for in a border poll”, and in it Fionola lists the many things that make the north of Ireland a bloody awful place.
It is, she says. “radically dysfunctional, implacably divided and politically shipwrecked, insular and immature to a pathological degree”.
Like some more? “Bigotry still holds this place in a death-grip. The bizarre obsession with flags, language and territory is just the outward manifestation of that.”
All this is by way of warning to the south of Ireland that it shouldn’t seek to make “this violent, obstreperous and heavily subsidized basket case part of a united Ireland?”
OK, Finola, we get the message. Irish unity would require many changes, some more than a little painful. But Irish unity isn’t about the south taking charge of the north. It’s about the people of Ireland coming together as one nation and making a new Ireland. Not the south making a bolt-on of the north.
Creating a united country from two divided chunks isn’t an easy task. When East and West Germany came together in 1990, East Germany was shooting its citizens who attempted to escape to the West. Land mines and booby traps provided further deterrents for those wishing to flee West. When German reunification began, I remember talking to a West German who complained bitterly about the burden this was imposing on West Germans. But they did it, and Germany today is the strongest nation in Europe.
If the two halves of Germany, one half of which was impoverished and brutal, can come together to create a new unified state, why can’t Ireland do likewise? Admittedly, it’d be a mammoth task. But as no mother disowns her child just because he’s dysfunctional or “mad”, to quote Fionnola, likewise the Irish people don’t or shouldn’t disown the north, just because the cracks in its foundation stone have led to political, social and financial instability for the past one hundred years.
To be fair, Fionnola in her piece is merely elaborating on Charlie Haughey’s speech to the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis in 1980, when he judged the north of Ireland to be “a failed political entity.” All the more reasons, then, for the people of the north and south to come together and create something better, rather than just list the warts on its disfigured face.