I’ve heard it said in some quarters that quietly, there’s some considerable animus shown southerners in Northern Ireland. It’s not the old sectarian, ‘hey are you from Dublin, whip you off the street and take you to a house just off the lower Shankill’ sort of thing. It’s more of the ‘what the hell would you know’ sort of prejudice.
And, I guess, some of that inevitably flows the other way too. At least that’s what Davy Adams argues in his Irish Times column today:
To the southern mind, we’re too abrasive, overly aggressive and, when it suits us, pigheadedly literal (the grating accent doesn’t help much, either). And that’s not the half of it. Ultimately, we’re seen as outsiders – if not quite foreigners – poking our noses into a polity that’s none of our business.
The shock on the faces of Dana and Martin as the harsh reality of southern partitionism sank in has been something to behold. Dana’s previous outings coincided with the tide of goodwill that swept Mary II into the Áras and, a couple of years later, herself briefly into the European parliament. Dana must feel like she’s landed on a different planet from 2004 Ireland.
As for Martin (who can only be cursing himself for not being more suspicious of Gerry opting to stand in a Border county, rather than run for president), his taken-aback demeanour has, to me at least, often suggested the previously unimaginable: “Good God, these people make even the unionists seem friendly.”
I think that’s a little harsh myself. We northerners don’t, by and large, get what makes the southern state tick (even those of us who take the time to pull the tactics of the Dublin full forward line to pieces before the big match)…
Southern politics is about real democratic power, the acquiring of it, or the lack thereof… Mary McAleese spent time in Dublin, and crucially she spent time within Fianna Fail (for most of the history of the state, the quintessential nexus of political power in Dublin), where she beat Albert Reynolds for the party nomination.
Sinn Fein’s failure, such as it is, occurred despite using by the far the most popular politician in Northern Ireland. It did not happen because he is northern (though work could have been done there that wasn’t), but because he does not yet have the native assets to draw upon to get him anywhere near the win line.
I suspect Sinn Fein would need to double or triple the number of McDonalds, Dohertys, MacLochlainns and Toibins before a northern liveried President becomes a realistic prospect anytime soon.
In the meantime, that “too abrasive, overly aggressive and pigheadedly literal” character arises from an exaggerated sense of the importance of our own, largely inscrutable, problems with history over and above the fragility of life as it is being lived within the skint political economy of a post Tiger world.