Those of you who are of mature years like myself may remember a much-loved BBC radio soap called Mrs Dale’s Diary. Its central character, unsurprisingly, was Mrs Dale, and she more than once opened an episode of the soap with the words “I’m worried about [my husband] Jim”.
Today, I find myself echoing Mrs D’s concern: I’m worried about Nelson McCausland.
It’s not Nelson’s physical health that concerns me, although those ruddy cheeks could indicate an underlying condition rather than fresh-faced good health. My concern is that Nelson is finding the surge in nationalism too much to bear, and his mind is buckling a little under the weight.
For example, in a recent newspaper column he does a Senator-Joe-McCarthy list of names which appeared in that letter, signed by 1,100 nationalists, calling on Leo Varadkar to establish a citizens’ assembly to look at the whole issue of a reunited Ireland. That struck me as eminently sensible, given that the question of the border, thanks to Brexit, is being more openly discussed than at any time during my lifetime.
And given that nationalists and republicans don’t want to make the mistake the Brexiteers did, by voting first and thinking afterwards.
But Nelson doesn’t like this letter one bit: he goes down the list and does his best to attach a breeze-block to the legs of those who signed. So Dr Peter Doran is a law lecturer at Queen’s but was also “a former Sinn Féin election candidate”.Dr Michael Pierce “used to edit a newspaper owned by Mairtin O Muilleoir”. Senator Frances Black becomes “folk singer Frances Black” and Roy Greenslade writes for the Guardian “but used to write for the Sinn Féin newspaper under a pseudonym”. He even gets round to mentioning yours truly, although he simply attached the damning word “commentator” before my name.
Why is Nelson going to such bother to discredit all of these fine people (yes, Virginia, I am very fine)? Nelson explains:
“The academics who sign it are signing up as nationalist academics, the artists who sign it are signing up as nationalist artists, the solicitors who sign it are signing up as nationalist solicitors and so on across the sectors.”
This is something that is “deeply divisive”, Nelson says. He see people in the different areas of life here identifying themselves as nationalist or unionist, and this is – yup- deeply divisive.
Oh dear. Nelson, Nelson, Nelson. How often have I tried to explain- our little stateen is divided. Hadn’t you noticed? Haven’t you been aware that since the founding of our little NE nest, one-third of the population (now one-half and growing) really really didn’t want to be in the stateen? And that the Good Friday Agreement has laid down in the Queen’s English that an aspiration to be Irish is perfectly legitimate and deserving of respect, as is the wish to have a border poll?
As a man of deep learning, Nelson, you’ll know that Socrates urged the need for anyone who would be wise to “know thyself.” My advice, and I offer this in the most supportive of ways, Nelson, is that you look around you at the diminishing unionist representation here, then look inwardly to see if all the bits inside your skull are clicking and whirring as they should, and finally get in touch with an expert like Ian Paisley as to where you might go for a short period of rest and recuperation in comfortable surroundings, preferably paid for by somebody else.
Really, Nelson, it’ll do you a power of good. And you’ll come back with the blood pumping through your Ulster-Scots veins and your normal level-headed, impartial judgement restored.