Some time ago, I wrote an article on Northern Ireland. It is the only time, I think, that I’ve dealt directly with the topic. I’d only go back to it if something had changed, either in my mind or in the world. Neither has happened.
This year sees the 1916 Rising commemorated by the State for the first time in decades. I can’t bear to listen to the endless discussions on the radio or read any of the acres of words expounded on the topic. The emotions raised by something that happened 90 years ago betray that these commemorations are less about Dublin 1916, or even Dublin 2006 than they are about Sinn Fein 2006. This is a proxy war for history’s judgement on the Provos.
So, here is my contribution to the conversation- “The North is a Foreign Country…”. When it went up last time, Slugger O’Toole’s commentators suggested that I ought to get out more- if I thought NI was foreign, I’d obviously never been to Asia. Any assistance with explaining this line of thinking would be welcomed.
To finish up this paramilitary themed post, I’ll leave you with an extract from another essay I’m proud of. This is from The Weak Empire. Mostly it deals with the US response to the mass murders of 9/11. But I also touch on Ireland’s own psychological politics.
Ireland fought with its own evil genius in the shape of Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA. They played on our secret sickness, our need to prove we were better than the Brits, that they’d only managed to have the upper hand for 800 years through a sequence of bad luck, treachery and freak weather conditions. As the IRA started to blow up mothers and children, as well as fathers and anyone else that moved, a serious bloc in the mainstream of society here cheered them on. That’ll teach them, we said. We’re just as good as them. Or we’re just as bad. I can’t remember which, now.
But, Our Day Will Come!, went the slogan! Then we’ll be strong and they’ll be weak. Lilies, a symbol reaching back into a well of death, a self-described blood sacrifice of other people’s children, sprouted on people’s lapels. As the 1970s crawled in, the Irish psyche teetered on the brink of being dragged back to the universal mud and blood of the First World War.
That was the real threat to our civilisation, and we escaped. At the price of walking away from what we thought we believed in, a united Ireland, we kept what we had, a civilised one. But it was, and still is, a close run thing.
Empire and madness.
Commemorations of Easter 1916 oughtn’t pass without a reference to the evils of them both.
I’ve said my piece now. Let’s all go back to our chocolate eggs and look to the future.