I had a Eureka moment the other night, and I believe I have solved the problem of what to call This Place! (also known as Northern Ireland, the Six Counties, The North, Norn Iron, The Province, the Failed Statelet, the Lost Field, the Occupied Counties, Our Wee Country, etc. )
I think almost all agree the present farce of multiple names is confusing, and one side is almost as bad as the other in this regards, I know those more nationalist of readers are saying “get rid of it altogether and the problem is solved” but I think we all must accept “all of the above” will remain in existence as a seperate entity of some sort for generations to come, whether it becomes a semi-autominous region of Ireland or remains part of the UK it is here to stay.
Therefore an acceptable name is required and I propose we call it…
wait for it …
Now hold on before you all start shouting, I know there already is an Ulster, which includes those bits outside the jusistiction of Stormont, generally comprising the “three lost counties” of Unionist Legend, but we all know these boundaries were an invention of the English Conquors and up to that stage changed often, now for the smart bit, in order to reflect modern realities and rebalance the divisions of Ireland I hereby propose we restore the lost province of Meath!
As I’m sure any of the Gaeilge speakers amongst us would inform you, the Irish language word for the provinces is cúige meaning the ” fifth part” and in days of yore before the Saxons Cartographers drew their lines, there was indeed five provinces, Ulster, Leinster, Connacht, Munster and Meath, the Middle one, Meath of Royal Tara, was tragically shrunk to a country and swallowed up by mighty Leinster, but what has this to do with our corner of the country and the Province of Ulster?
Currently Ireland has in the region of 6 million inhabitants in 32 counties, extremely unequally divided into four Historic Provinces, as any Connacht rugby fan would tell you I am sure, they are currently divided as follows:-
Ulster has 9 counties, 24,000 km sq and about 2 million people.
Munster has 6 counties, also 24,000 km sq and just under 1.2 million people
Mighty Leinster has a whopping 12 counties, roundabout 20,000 km sq and almost 2.3 million people!
but poor wee Connacht has only 5 counties, 18,000 km sq and only half a million inhabitants.
So lets even things up by restoring the cúige, 32 counties divided by five gives you roughly 6.5 counties each, 17,500 km sq and an average population of 1.2 million, give or take a few here or there, obviously allowances have to be made for the geography in the west so some imbalance will remain, but I think we can do much better than the current system!
My proposals to reorganise the country are as follows:-
Munster to remain as it is, 6 counties, population 1.2 million, just about right!
Ulster to become 6 Counties, (I’m sure you can guess which ones ) population 1.7 million, bit over population wise but acceptable.
Connacht, to become 6 counties with the inclusion of Donegal, bringing the population up to 0.6 million, still well under but geography over rules in this case, a big spread of area but culturally much of Donegal is a western County.
Leinster, to lose its norther portion, including half of Dublin, reducing it to 7.5 counties and a population of 1.3 million, still over but logical geographically, and dividing Dublin reduces its dominance.
Finally, New Meath, with 6.5 counties and 1.2 million residents, its just perfect! made up of Meath, Westmeath, Louth, Longford, Cavan and Monaghan, along with Dublin City and Finglas, historically not that far removed from its old boundaries, and a compact entity.
I can understand if some of our neighbours down south might resent a northerner like myself reorganising their country, but I’m sure even the most ardent traditionalist will admit there is a certain amount of logic to my proposals. In the new smaller Ulster both communities can adopt and share the symbols of the tradition province, and those in Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal can celebrate a new stronger identity instead of being in a no-mans-land of sorts. The Irish government can carry out a more sensible form of regionalisation, both devoling some powers to the new provinces and centralising much of the county council functions within them, saving the need to redraw county boundaries. If in the distant future a United Ireland occurs Ulster can be much more easily absorbed into the new Provincial structures and allowances can be factored into any reorganisation if so desired, this should make the proposition an attractive one to Nationalists.
Within the Unionist community there has always been an attachment to the name and identity of Ulster, despite its overwhelming Gaelic origins and symbolism, and the name remains in use in many areas, from the Ulster Farmers Union, the Royal Society of Ulster Architects, the Ulster Museum, Ulsterbus, to The Ulster Unionist Party, (NICUNF does not have the same ring as UCUNF you must admit), just as most of these institutions have increasingly come to represent the whole community, the name of Ulster no longer can be monopolised, and I’m sure most will gladly welcome its official use once again, and maybe those ghost of the betrayed counties can be laid to rest.
So to conclude, maybe this is a hair-brained idea that has as much chance of reality as an “Independent Ulster”, but someone was asking earlier for a non-water light-hearted subject, so its all yours to ridicule to your hearts content! However if either Government accept the idea I want a heafty commission!!!
(PS Mick can we have a just for fun category for pieces like this! )