Henry McDonald is on the bank of the River Saar, one of the natural boundaries between Germany and France. He muses on the possibilities of using the European context to provide the Belfast Agreement with a stable framework.
“The buildings on the French side are shabbier, the paintwork faded, graffiti more commonplace than over in Germany. The two peoples cling on to their distinctive national characteristics through culture, sport, cuisine and so on. The idea, however, that these differences could ever lead to war again is an absurdity to everyone living in this frontier zone. A life without the EU and its imperatives of integration and cohesion is equally unthinkable here.”
Is this a model for Ireland?
“…the slow, peaceful, inexorable coalescence of two regions on one land mass, where cultural and religious differences will survive, but where people will come together for practical, everyday concerns.”
Though he doesn’t say it, McDonald appears to attack the official cross-border bodies. It requires, he says:
“…an end to organisations which tried, at breakneck speed, to fuse forcibly the North with the rest of the Republic. By doing so, they not only failed to get rid of one border but ended up creating scores more all over Northern Ireland. When their utopian ideology and their messianic methods are dumped for good, we can push forward the process, already begun thanks to the euro, of economic and social integration on our island.”