Assuming you believe in him, do you sometimes find yourself bargaining with God? Or with your neighbour? We realise that we are facing an appalling vista, so we try to haggle our way out of it. “If you don’t let my sick child die, I’ll never touch drink again”. Or “If you can get the fire-brigade here inside ten minutes, I’ll give each fire fighter £1000”. We see an express train coming and we need to get somebody to untie our bindings, otherwise catastrophe will arrive.
Such thoughts went through my mind reading a Jane Morrice piece in the Irish Times this morning. Younger readers may need filled in on who Morrice is. Or was. She was a member of the Northern Ireland Women’s coalition, she got elected to the Assembly in 1998 after two unsuccessful runs, and she was big into all sorts of peace projects.
This morning’s piece by Morrison opens with the sentence “At no other time in the post-partition history of Britain and Ireland have all five nations faced the current level of constitutional challenge.” (Yes, Virginia, North-Eastern Ireland (NEI) is a nation – did you not know that?) She figures that “calls for a Scottish independence referendum and an Irish Border poll [are] growing louder”.
In this crisis-ridden moment, Morrice believes “the people of Britain” can do one of three things: “Keep Calm and Carry On”, aka grin and bear it; reverse Brexit and rejoin the EU; or “in the spirit of European compromise”, the three “nations” of Scotland, NEI and the south of Ireland could form a “Celtic association”, in the way Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg form the Benelux countries. So these three “nations” of Scotland, NEI and the south of Ireland would return to/stay in the EU, while England and Wales would sail off to seek their fortune on the choppy seas of the WTO world.
She ends by quoting Churchill’s famous “dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone”, although it’s not quite clear why. Maybe to prepare us for her last, all- stops-pulled-out final paragraph:
“As they stood at the start of the European journey, those ‘dreary steeples’ set the scene alongside the proud cranes of Belfast’s shipyard, the high walls of Derry, the drumlins of Down, the stones of the Giant’s Causeway and the mountains of Mourne on the horizon of Europe pointing the way forward for a continent with a mighty role to play in the world.”
I have no evidence that Morrice was on drugs when she wrote that last paragraph, but it’s hard to read it without the aid of some psychedelic substance.
But hey – back to Morrice’s proposal. Clearly the UK as we know it is beginning to creak and shed screws. The idea of a border poll or Scottish independence is so painful it is unthinkable. So let’s have a middle-of-the-road thing where three ‘nations’ join hands and form part of the EU, while at the same time not splitting up the UK.
As I said at the start, when you face an appalling vista, you’ll come up with any alternative, however irrational and unrealisable, to avoid the vista becoming a calamitous reality.
So OK, Jane, we get it. You’re against Scottish independence and you don’t want a border poll in Ireland. But proposing magic mushroom alternatives only shows how desperate you are to avoid the inevitable.