Wednesday 15 March 2017

Cuts both ways

We're in the midst of centenary celebrations here in Ireland. The 1916 Easter Rising was generously memorialised by a government starting to feel flush again and the 2007 crash and burn recession. This sort of thing will go on (and on) until 2022: 100 years after the setting up of Saorstat Eireann the Free State. As everbode kno, the movement to free Ireland from the shackles of monarchy left the NE corner of the island behind - because the majority up there in The North didn't want to leave. The partition, in setting up a unit that was large enough for economic viability, included a large number of Catholics on the 'wrong' side of the borrrder. At least they stayed there and survived (mostly): the partition on India in 1947 - there 15 million people felt obliged to shift their traps to live with co-religionists and up to 1 million were murdered.

Did someone mention Louis Mountbatten?, last Viceroy of India whose unseemly haste to wrap up the exit from India and Empire helped to precipitate the holocaust at partition. He got that job through his family connexions: cousin to Mrs Windsor and uncle to her husband. If you are bitter and uncharitable, or believe in a vengeful god, you'll say that he got his comeuppance when he was blown to smithereens on 27 Aug 1979 by the IRA. People of my generation remember that incident in The Troubles, partly because 2 teenage boys, presumed innocent, also died. The bombing in Mullaghmore was considered 'a success' by Gerry Adams of VP of Sinn Féin "In my opinion, the IRA achieved its objective: people started paying attention to what was happening in Ireland". The Troubles is the euphemism for the civil war that blew up here, esp. north ofbthe borrrder, with the turmoil on 1968 - The Paris Spring, the invasion of Czecho, the Tet Offensive, the Rivers of Blood speech in UK.

We have just seen elections for the legislative assembly in NI Norn Iron. This institution (Tionól Thuaisceart Éireann or Norlin Airlan Assemblie [that's Ulster Scots) of devolved (away from Westminster) government was set up as part of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 which helped put to bed 30 years of killing and reciprocal atrocity. The two main political parties Democratic Unionist Party DUP and Sinn Féin SF have been in a power-sharing executive that manages some aspects of day to day life in the Six Counties = NI. Their relationship can be quite chilly because there is a lot of recent history to digest. There are only 90 Members of the Legislative Assembly but several of them were in the habit of cutting dead members of the other side when they met in the corridors of power. Famously Ian Paisley DUP and Martin McGuinness SF, who both helped broker the Good Friday agreement were able to have a civil conversation - indeed they became known as the Chuckle Brothers for the frequency with which they were snapped laughing together [see above L]. But things move: on Paisley is dead and McGuinness has a ghastly incurable disease.
Whatever about democratically, things are moving on demographically [chart above is census summaries for religious affiliation from 1861 to 2011]. At the foundation of the state / partition at the red line , catholics made up a tad over a third of the population, Protestants, in their several divisions and sects, made up the rest. There was an oft stated fear that Catholics, in refusing condoms and the pill, would out-breed the dominant group and eventually achieve parity or majority in terms of population. Religion is a reasonable but not perfect surrogate marker for attachment to Unionism [with UK] vs Nationalism [joining co-religionists in the Republic]. But another factor, driving a grey wedge [as in the chart above] between the two beleaguered communities is immigration; notably from Poland [whoops more Catholics!] and the Baltic Republics but also from China, India and Africa. Some claim to be atheists or no-religion but anyone from the Six Counties can smell out where you really come from. Now 2017 Catholics and Protestants are within a couple of percentage points in population, and the protestant majority is beginning to feel the pressure of history.

The current leader of the DUP Arlene Foster isn't the sort to crack a joke with Martin McGuinness or indeed any "Sinner". Her father was shot in the head by the IRA and her school bus was bombed by the same people, and she doesn't have much patience with those people or their affiliates. She is particularly annoyed by political creep: as the republicans feel the breeze of change they get a little puffed up and start to push for more. One aspect of this is the call for support of the Irish language by the NI government, as part of the cultural identity of the was-minority. Poor Mrs Foster thought this was damn-fool nonsense put out to needle her and pointed out that there were more native Polish speakers than ditto Irish and they weren't calling for parytet szacunku. True dat! But not notably emollient politically. She dug that hole deeper at a rally by referring to the push for the Irish Language Act thus "If you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back and looking for more.". She "regretted" that comment not because she wished to retract it but because it gave mileage to the opposition in the recent election campaign. What's the Irish for Rhetoric?? Because some estimate that fully supporting the Irish language will cost £100 million /year. Is that what the Republicans really want to spend that amount of cash on? In the Republic we spend more than €1 billion <trigger warning: scannán propaganda frith-Gaeilge> keeping a dead language afloat. As a reader of The Blob you'll be properly skeptical about that figure = 2% of the annual budget. Here is a cross counter-blast to the earlier propaganda giving some context and a different choreography of arm-waving for the other side.

The last NI Local Government fell this Spring because McGuinness pulled the plug on power-sharing over the cash-for-ash scandal in which Mrs Foster was deeply bogged down . . . hence the election. There was a sea-change in the North from the election because the ratio of MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly] went from 38 DUP : 28 SF to 28 DUP : 27 SF - just a whisker off parity of esteem. That wasn't going to perk up Mrs Foster's humour, nor was she inclined to be magnanimous about the change in the balance of power. In her own constituency, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, she easily secured her own seat but stalked out of the count with her entourage when a third Sinn Féin candidate, and convicted IRA gunman, Seán Lynch was counted in. Lynch called out to her back "See you later alligator!". Which, you have to admit, was unkind but a hit a palpable hit.

No comments:

Post a Comment