Irish gifts - sales benefit the Newshound

Whose job is it to cheerlead for this place?

(by Robin Livingstone,

This place is broken and the truth is, itís way beyond fixing.

The report this week of the Stormont public affairs committee on paramilitary funding was just the diagnosis of another symptom that has broken out on the body of the terminal Northern Patient.

If Northern Ireland/Ulster/the Province were a horse, humanity would demand that it be shot right away.

In Gerard Manley Hopkinsí elegy, Felix Randal the Farrier succumbed to "some fatal four disorders", but so many deadly diseases infect these six blighted counties that the most unionists can hope for is an extended period of remission.

But with the blood poisoned and the vital organs closing down one by one, it can only be a matter of time before the life support machine is deployed.

The simple truth is that the fundamental requirement for the continued existence of the state has never been met, and itís abundantly clear now that it never, ever can be.

For 50 years unionists, rather than working to convince the sizeable nationalist minority that their best interests lay in making the nascent state work, gave vent instead to raging paranoia and anti-Catholic bigotry to such an extent that even an old Vanguard man and UWC adviser like David Trimble admitted that the north had been a cold house for Catholics. In unionist-speak, that means a walk-in freezer.

You might think that unionists might have learned from the mistakes of the past and gone to work on persuading nationalists that this isnít such a bad place after all, but not a bit of it.

You might think that on such a key issue - one on which the very future of their country rests - they might for once take a pragmatic, politically astute course and try to convince those who need convincing that there is a future for them and their children here.

Forget it, pal. Bleat follows whinge follows rant as unionist politicians continue about their business of alienating the ever-dwindling number of Catholics and nationalists willing to give this wee Province a try.

Think about it for a minute. It is not the nationalist community which is in the business of selling the product called Northern Ireland - the vast majority of them are looking forward to the day when it doesnít exist any more.

And yet we find ourselves in the almost surreal position wherein unionist leaders insist that they need some reassurance and constantly question the bona fides of their partners in government. It is politics at its most dizzyingly inept.

Put simply, it is the job of the unionists to provide reassurance - reassurance that these six counties can ever be anything other than a sectarian cesspit from which almost fifty per cent of its people canít wait to extricate themselves.

It is the unionist and loyalist people who have most to gain from an elongated spell of stability, and yet unionist politicians do more than republicans and nationalists put together to undermine the merest suggestion of normalcy, while loyalists continue to up the ante on the streets at every turn.

The emotional attachment to Stormont today among the ordinary men and women of Andersonstown is precisely the same as it was eight years - non-existent.

And yet theyíre supposed to quiver every time David Trimble threatens to pull the curtain down on the Executive and the Assembly. Sorry, Dave, but they donít.

The emotional attachment of the men and women of West Belfast to this state is as it was at the time of partition - non-existent and growing cooler by the day.

Generally speaking, they will lose little sleep over the news that a huge black economy is sucking the lifeblood out of the north because they donít see themselves as having a stake in a political arrangement which is so manifestly unsustainable.

Say Northern Ireland in a word association test and you might think that eighty years and more after the formation of the state people might say the Glens of Antrim, the Giantís Causeway or the Fermanagh lakes. Some might, but around these parts theyíll say riots, raids and red, red faces.

Instead of acting as a proselytiser for the union, UUP leader David Trimble is an unwitting but incredibly effective detractor in the eyes of many nationalists.

His appearance on Hearts and Minds last week - now being hastily inserted by Sky TV into the next edition of When Politicians Lose the Plot - was as good an indicator as any of why it is that the Northern Patient is on its deathbed.

Some weekend reports suggested that Trimble is set for a move to Scotland or England. If thereís any truth in that, the local tourist boards there will be hoping that he keeps a low profile.

July 5, 2002

This article appeared first on the web site on July 4, 2002.