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Countering North-South mistrust in Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 13th, 2019 at 12:45:11 AM EST

Letter published by the Irish Times.

Countering North-South mistrust

A chara, - Una Mullally writes that "North-South dialogue and cohesion must avoid unionist vs nationalist binaries" ("Southern patriotic grandstanding must stop if we want a united Ireland", Opinion & Analysis, March 11th).

My late wife, Muriel Boothman, was chairwoman of the Blessington Women's Group, then the largest rural local women's group in Ireland. Some 30 years ago they were organising family exchanges where Protestant women from the North stayed with Catholic families in the South and vice versa. For many it was a daunting and then a transformative experience because most had never been across the Border before and had visions of being hunted with pitchforks! They came to realise that our similarities far exceed our differences, and even our differences didn't amount to much more than cultural anachronisms.

In my youth, I did some youth work in the north inner city of Dublin, and there were many teenagers who hadn't been west of Capel Street, south of the Liffey, or north of Fairview. Similarly in Lurgan, where the denizens of some sectarian ghettoes had hardly ever been in the houses and estates of their opposite numbers. So, yes, there is lot of cross-community work which needs to be done, both within and between North and south, which no formal referendum or inter-governmental agreement can achieve.

This doesn't need to be a highfalutin philosophical debate. Playing Gaelic, soccer or rugby together, sharing educational systems and cultural events, economic links and social campaigns can all play their part.

But this is why Brexit is such a tragedy and keeping the Border open so important. Anything which reignites tensions could set us back a generation, and those who stoke those tensions should rightly be shunned. Some in the North may be more comfortable with "the good old days" where you knew whose side you were on, and who to hate and fight. Others in the South who have done well out of recent economic growth may wonder why they should take on the financial, social and political risks and costs of reunification.

It's much more difficult to be open and accepting of differences and creating relationships across boundaries. But it can be done and I am hopeful that the younger generation coming through to power will achieve it. Opinion polls of social attitudes show younger people identifying less and less with simple Catholic versus Protestant and nationalist versus unionist binaries.

True unity will come, if at all, not when nationalists outnumber unionists, but when the vast majority cease to care about the distinctions, or at least recognise them for what they are: minor differences compared to the greater humanity that unites us. The success of the Derry Girls comedy series among all demographics should remind us of that fact. - Yours, etc,

Blessington, Co Wicklow.

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 13th, 2019 at 12:55:38 AM EST
Being not from Derry, the only way I can follow the dialogue is by using subtitles. But the ones on youtube are quite utterly mad and rendered it even more totally incomprehensible.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Mar 13th, 2019 at 01:57:23 PM EST
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Funny that - it seems completely clear to me, but then I'm from a different country!

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 13th, 2019 at 03:31:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Mar 13th, 2019 at 03:41:06 PM EST
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Protestants/unionists insist on calling Derry Londonderry whereas for nationalists it has always been Derry. So even the Title is unapologetically nationalist. But there the nationalism almost ends, because the whole series is a fairly merciless pisstake of nationalism, Catholicism and their perception of Protestants and The English. Apparently the series is Channel 4's most popular launch of a new series in many years - in England...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 13th, 2019 at 07:35:39 PM EST
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That's fascinating. I have no problems at all with the accents. I discovered Derry Girls a few weeks ago and binged on it, howling with laughter, until my wife pointed out that it's a kid's show and could we watch womething adult now?

She couldn't understand a word, but got most of the gags anyway -- a convent school education helps I guess.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Mar 27th, 2019 at 11:54:02 AM EST
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Like most well written series, it works on a number of different levels and for a number of different demographics...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 28th, 2019 at 09:28:03 PM EST
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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 13th, 2019 at 01:31:16 AM EST
My best friend for nearly a half-century is an Irish-American and Roman Catholic (although not as RC as his mother and sister, who are WAY out there).  A million years ago, he asked me what me what my issue was with reunification.  I said (and I can just about remember verbatim): 1) Ireland seriously needs to sort some things out, because let's face it, its best shot at unification was Clontarf, and not only were MY ancestors (Norway and Iceland) fighting on both sides, but so were YOURS; 2) you can't expect a bunch of Protestants to subject themselves willingly to a country that still operates under 14th Century canon law.

Point 2 the Republic has dealt with in admirable fashion.  Point 1 is your point.  This is no time to be crowing like we're in a football pub or lining up for the traditional clan wars.  Both sides have taken serious losses.  And both sides can either continue to do so, or they can put all that aside and move on.

by rifek on Wed Mar 13th, 2019 at 04:24:50 AM EST
Except the bunch of Protestants in question would mostly be happier under the 14th C canon law and opposed most of the recent reforms in Ireland.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 13th, 2019 at 10:57:23 AM EST
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