We have the late arrival of last Friday’s Irish Times column from Newton Emerson… and his fictional vox pops of the opening of IKEA at the Holywood Exchange….By Newton Emerson
The peace process reached its logical conclusion this morning with the opening of Ireland’s first IKEA superstore on the outskirts of Belfast. Huge crowds are expected as people from across the North come together in an orgy of shallow consumerism, Scandinavian social posturing and moderate physical violence. Some Assembly may be required.
Shantelle McWilliams, 34, from Lurgan in Co. Armagh, set out last night for the back of the queue on the M1 to be first in the queue for a Halibut Oggsandbacon modular pine-effect stacking system.
“I believe that we can go on shelving things forever,” she said.
Rupert English, 29, from Holywood, Co. Down, has his heart set on a Sekure Ocrat wicker basket bathroom set with matching soft soap holder.
“I need somewhere to hide my dirty laundry,” he said.
Ian and Martin, a same-sex couple from Belfast, have their eyes on a Bjorn Tchukilbruther fold-down sofa-futon with optional his-and-his flowery cushions.
“We want to get into bed with each other and still keep our seats,” they said.
Considerable interest is also expected from South of the Border, where a planned IKEA store on the M50 has been delayed by all the unplanned stores on the M50.
Bertie Ahern, 57, an experienced decorator from Dublin, is heading North to look for new open-plan living ideas. “I want to create the impression of two rooms merging into one without having to do anything structural,” he explained.
IKEA’s arrival in Northern Ireland has been welcomed across the whole political spectrum, especially the soft pastel end. Republicans believe it will demonstrate that most things which are put together are destined to fall apart. Unionists believe it will demonstrate that most things can go well with a nice border. Everyone else believes it will demonstrate that Northern Ireland has become quite sophisticated, preferably without demonstrating the desperate parochialism behind this belief.
“We’ve got an IKEA and you don’t!” one Ballymena shopper told the Irish Times yesterday. “Celtic Tiger my arse.”
Privately, insecurity experts hope that IKEA’s arrival heralds the final decommissioning of leather suites, mirrored wardrobes, divan beds and other disturbing features of the North’s domestic landscape.
“The decision to dump armchairs will be particularly significant,” an NIO source confirmed.
Preparations for this morning’s opening have been going on behind the scenes for some time. Secret talks began late last year to discuss splitting IKEA’s single design philosophy into two separate but identical design philosophies. The main sticking point was delivery, specifically on evenings and weekends. Hardliners were eventually persuaded by the soft lines of a Smorgasbord fitted kitchen with built-in appliances.
In September, IKEA sent out a colourful brochure to every home in Northern Ireland entitled: “Wouldn’t it be great if it looked like this all the time?” This was followed by an advertising campaign which very carefully avoided any mention of Stockholm syndrome.
Surveying the new Belfast store, which is the size of six football pitches or four GAA pitches depending upon your design philosophy, IKEA area manager Alan Key was simply hoping that today would go well.
“All I want is for the people of Northern Ireland to come through our doors, see the wonderful things on offer and think to themselves ‘A-ha!’,” he said. “Although, of course, A-Ha are actually from Norway.”
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty