I just did a quick interview with a Bel Tel journalist who asked why our threads over paramilitary banners seem to attract so many comments when the hard core policy ones hardly any. My glib answer is that people will resile to non political tribal issues so long as nothing is happening on the hill… As Mark Durkan makes his speech in Trinity tonight, he is no doubt aware just how far nationalist sentiment in the north and the south have drifted from one another… Fionnuala O’Connor puts it thusly:
In todays poorer State, interest in the dour and unprepossessing North is back to its default position and the 95 per cent-completed peace draws little attention. However far away the unification of Ireland was, it is further off now, a feature on no Southern manifesto. What is the Cowen instinct on unification, the Gilmore line, the Kenny line?
Even recast as the aspiration of old, the very term united Ireland lacks resonance though unionists are not ready to declare their old bogey defunct, any more than republicans are willing to admit how they needed Hume, much less how their violence helped blow away the vestiges of the aspiration.
But the Catholic Irish republic marching into Protestant Ulster lost its oomph as nightmare a while back, perhaps when Charlie Haughey departed. Albert had no menace, Bertie no claws: they were men of peace, not of nationalist expansionism.
And finishes with an acute rendering of a bitter and intractable truth for the pre-modern nationalists of Northern Ireland:
Todays Southern state has neither time nor inclination for consideration of Northern Ireland. Bureaucratic input suffices for smart guys of both genders at desks in the Taoiseachs office and Foreign Affairs, occasionally refreshed by visits to their Belfast outpost: like drainage experts or electricians maintaining a troublesome inherited property.
Which is how things were through the worst of the Troubles, but there was also passion then. All passion spent now: partition is solid as ever.
In short: the post modern, post ideological southern state has no time to indulge northern solipsistic and mawkish introspection of either type..
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