Let’s be honest if Northern Ireland didn’t exist, you wouldn’t invent it would you?
2021 marks 100 years since the foundation of the multi-monikered entity we call home …‘Northern Ireland’, ‘the North’, ‘the Province’, ‘here’, ‘Our Wee Country’ etc etc.
(You say “Ulster”. I say “Occupied Six County Gerrymandered Sectarian Orange Statelet” Let’s call the whole thing off. )
My English brother-in-law is very worried that England still hasn’t recovered from the bitter divisions caused by Brexit 5 years ago. I reminded him that over here we still haven’t got over the result of the Battle of the Boyne 331 years ago. So for us, 100 years ago isn’t so much history, it’s the day before yesterday. 100 years on, Northern Ireland remains a very divided society.
So in 2021 we’re simultaneously celebrating, sullenly acknowledging, commemorating, ignoring, remembering, cursing, and honouring a hundred years of our controversial constitution.
Centenary celebrations have been somewhat muted to say the least. The implosion of political Unionism in the year of its big birthday has not helped matters.
Northern Ireland’s centenary is like the birthday party of a six year old girl. As twenty of her friends from P2 arrive at the house to watch Frozen, she’s in the toilet throwing up after eating too many Percy Pigs.
So is there anything to celebrate?
Partitioning countries by religion has gone somewhat out of fashion and I suppose we can take some credit for that. But Northern Ireland has remanded remarkably resilient despite, or more likely, because of the violent opposition to it.
The bad news for Nationalists is that partitioned countries are rarely re-coupled.
The bad news for Unionists is that a bitter split usually leads merely to more bitterness, division and virtually endless conflict as we see from Israel/Palestine, India/Pakistan and Oasis.
Countless books have been written about the history of Northern Ireland. Let me save you bother of reading them. Basically there were 50 years of one-party rule, 25 years of conflict and 25 years of peace processing.
If you want more detail I have provided below a completely incomplete and random glossary of useful terms that summarises our past and our present and some of its protagonists. I think the glossary will be particularly useful for outsiders and people who don’t really understand the nuances of Northern Ireland, such as the Chief Constable.
Feel free to cut out and keep.
In 1921 the border was a new squiggly line over 300 miles long separating two parts of one island. In 2021 it is a sausage being checked at Larne.
This is a term used by Nationalists to describe Northern Ireland and more importantly to deliberately wind up Unionists. Other words and phrases that intentionally provoke anger and outrage include “Londonderry”, “Planter’ and “biggest show in the country”.
The bit of Ireland that is not the North. County Donegal is in the south even though it is the most northerly part of Ireland. And lots of County Monaghan is north of bits of the North but please note, it is still the South.
The period from 1922–72 when Unionists ran Northern Ireland as a one party state.
Cf 50 years of Unionist misrule.
Cf “The Good Old Days” – Jim Allister
What they did to us.
Legitimate and proportionate use of violence
What we did to them.
Former barman, inaccurate autobiographer, tweeter of avuncular whimsy. Definitely, definitely, definitely NOT a former godfather of terrorism no matter what the huge pile of evidence says. Adams is also a regular predictor of imminent Irish Unity, though his predictions steadfastly refuse to come true. cf Unmystic Meg.
Elaborate political process devised for dividing the money we get from Britain in to money for Prods and money for Taigs.
Finest politician of last 100 years. Kept banging on and on about peace, not eating a flag and unity being about people not borders. In fact, he went about this so much that terrorists eventually called ceasefires in 1994 just to shut him up.
Firebrand preacher. Pope-botherer. Instigator of Troubles. Waged war against sodomy. Lost war comprehensively. Waged more successful war against compromise for 40 years and then compromised. Latter day Chuckle Brother. Former Loyal Son of Ulster
Michael D Higgins
Irish President which is President of the Irish but not all of Ireland. From the South but regular visitor to North provided the invitation is perfectly phrased
What themmuns are.
Frequently mispronounced seat of what is laughingly called government in Northern Ireland. Stormont is very important for the stability of Northern Ireland though not so important that MLAs can’t take a wee 3 year break.
The cause of all the trouble here. See also “Protestants”.
The greatest footballer ever. Anyone disputing this is not from Northern Ireland.
Deputy First Minister
Deputy First sounds like it is a deputy to a first and therefore inferior to the first i.e. second. But in Northern Ireland words do not have the same obvious meaning that they have in other jurisdictions. So the Deputy First actually has the same powers as the First and is completely co-equal to the First, in other words for all intents and purposes, deputy first is joint first, and logically therefore not an actual deputy and so not inferior to the first.
Unless you are Unionist, in which case deputy first is clearly inferior to first and for a Unionist to be deputy first, and so co-equal to a first, would be the end of the world.
(This use of the practical euphemism “Deputy First” has now moved beyond Northern Ireland and is a useful tool to prevent other people being upset. So if you know any English football fans just tell them that in July this year England did not lose the Euros football final to Italy – they came deputy first.)
Nobel Laureate, Derry wordsmith, and highly inappropriate poster boy for NIO’s Centenary campaign. Heaney celebrating the centenary is like having Nigel Farage fronting the Michel Barnier Fan Club.
Planters Insult used by Nationalists against Unionists to imply that the latter have no right to be in Ireland on the grounds that they only arrived here a mere 410 years ago.
Passed Off Peacefully
Method by which we judge the success of an event in Northern Ireland. “How did your 7 year old son’s Holy Communion party go?” “ Great. It passed off peacefully.”
NI Protocol Protests
Strange new form of protest where people protest about something they actively brought about themselves.
Bread and Butter Issues
Issues like the NHS, education, and the climate crisis which voters claim are very important but then ignore when there’s a row about flags, poppies or bilingual road signs.
Sinn Fein MPs
Schrodinger’s Politicians, they are simultaneously both MPs and not MPs. Take seats but refuse to sit in said seats. Members of parliament but not in it. This abstentionist policy was adopted as recently as 1918.
Multi-storey form of cultural expression. Inevitable cause of annual dispute – “Is it pronounced bonfire or bone-fire”?
The political philosophy that believes that the best way to make people want to stay in the Union is to treat them like dangerous enemies.
The political philosophy that believes that the best way to unite the people of Ireland is to shoot lots of them.
Secretary of State
Hapless English politician with no knowledge of Northern Ireland who is given the task of running Northern Ireland. It is a prerequisite that the office holder must have received zero votes from the Northern Ireland electorate. Job usually given to obscure and incompetent politicians as punishment for something they did in a previous life.
Secretaries of State are formally ranked from Mo Mowlam – “the best”, to Karen Bradley –“Ffs!! Seriously??”
The ridiculous and dangerous notion that educating children of all religions together in the same school might somehow reduce sectarianism. Opposed by all right-thinking people who make a living from division.
Irish Catholic Church
Unelected, unofficial government of Southern Ireland from 1922 to early 21st century. Very strict on issues of sexual morality, except for the sexual morality of its own staff. Mass producer of well-laundered sheets and damaged individuals.
Formerly an extremely powerful institution in Ireland, it is now less influential than an online Twitter poll about bus lanes.
Popular debating device where you ignore or understate fault on your part by pointing to an irrelevant thing done by someone else eg “The IRA were awful”. “Maybe, but your feet smell”
Southern Irish lack of enthusiasm for Irish Unity. Examples of Partitionism include RTE weather maps which stop at the border, Southerners calling Northerners “Nordies” and the southern GAA teams hating successful 6 County GAA teams more than they hate people who call hurls “hurley bats”.
Area of land despised by majority of voters.