Patrick and I talk about Northern Ireland

Sadly, even doing a posting every Monday, which I vaguely remember hoping to do, has proved more than I can conveniently manage. My apologies to all those who still seem to be dropping by here on the off chance. A nice way of putting it: digestive issues. Here’s hoping I at least manage to stagger over to the IEA on September 3rd, for my Life of Brian thing.

Meanwhile, another chat with Patrick, this time about Northern Ireland. It’s a very low key conversation, given the passions that this issue often arouses, and given that in a former life, Patrick was a devoted Ulster Unionist himself. But his views have softened somewhat, and my views on Ulster have always been very soft, what with me being a born-and-bread Home Counties boy and then a Londoner, to whom Ulster is a far away place of which I know little.

For me this conversation was a delightful escape, both from my medical difficulties (see above) and from the apparently frightful state of the world right now.

One thought on “Patrick and I talk about Northern Ireland”

  1. Your and Patrick’s conversation held my interest for the full hour despite the fact that I usually much prefer to read than to listen, because I can read so much faster than I can listen, and because I can check back to see what was said so much more easily.

    A few random thoughts:

    I was intrigued by your thesis that one reason for the relative strength of unionism in Wales compared to Northern Ireland or Scotland was, paradoxically, the fact that the Welsh language is doing better than Irish or Scots Gaelic – meaning that non-Welsh speaking Welsh people don’t want to be stuck in a small country where they might be pressured into changing their language. I’m not entirely convinced, partly because Welsh isn’t doing *that* well. Most of the figures you see quoted optimistically include people who haven’t completely forgotten their Welsh from school. But I think there is considerable resentment from Anglophone Welsh people of stuff like public sector jobs having a Welsh language requirement in some areas, and there is an inchoate feeling that the non-Welsh speaking Welsh want to keep their options open. Schools are another cause of dissension – as they are in Northern Ireland, although the pattern there is different: it used to be that the Catholics had their own schools and the state schools, though officially non-religious, were effectively the Protestant schools. I believe this has changed a little but is still basically true. Liberal opinion almost universally holds that the separate education systems make communal violence more likely. I am not so sure. I had thought, no felt, this for a while but I didn’t know why. Your “60:40 ratios are dangerous” argument might give me a way to think about it. Putting the Catholic and the Protestant kids together (noting that they are primarily tribal rather than religious labels) brings into sharp relief their relative proportions in an area.

    One thing I share with Patrick is the feeling that I used to know much more about Northern Ireland than I do now. All four of my grandparents were born in southern Ireland. Both my parents were devout Catholics. They utterly loathed the IRA. So I grew up with an interesting double perspective, and was familiar from quite a young age with the idea that this wasn’t a primarily religious conflict. Indeed for a long while both the Official IRA and (more quietly) the Provisional IRA were officially Marxists, declaring solidarity with other revolutionary movements like the PLO.

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