Jenny McCartney the rather fierce daughter of the fierce Bob QC, ex MP, in her Telegraph column gives away the secret of life if you’ve been reared in the Gold Coast. Northern Ireland is pleasantly empty if you’re not set among the huddled masses and can drive quickly past the riot debris and protest camps on your way to the Turner Prize.
In fact, rural Northern Ireland in general performed stupendously well on the happiness index. Seven of the 11 “happiest” places hail from there: Moyle, Lisburn, Limavady, Banbridge, Carrickfergus and Down, all place-names that echoed around my childhood (our family home was on the bit of County Down that abuts Belfast Lough). Yet there is not an international stampede to live in this blessed place, while in the south-east of England the population is packed in like pilchards in a series of increasingly small and expensive tins (which may, of course, have something to do with why folk in Northern Ireland, luxuriating in green space, appear more content).
Despite all that we’re still not absolutely guaranteed a place in the recognition stakes. There are definitional issues if you’re the media for somewhere else and need to muscle in on the happiest quotients. What’s a “place” anyway? What’s a town? How does Enniskillen compare with lovely Sheffield? What come to think of it, are “Britain” and “the UK”? (Oh please don’t tell me, I didn’t mean it).
What’s this about Orkney in the Mirror? Have they left us out of the UK again? Snooty old Channel 4 News unilaterally expel us and Scotland too, the closet republicans; and even manage to drag Stephen Lawrence into it . At last! We ‘ve found a familiar grievance to make us even happier. How dare you ignore us; we may be small but… the Titanic, the Somme, Ruby Murray, Rory McIlroy, etc etc.
But it’s Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times (£) who effortlessly wins the Slugger prize for cynicism
Six of the 10 “happiest” places in the United Kingdom are situated in Northern Ireland. This “news” has shocked some mainland commentators, but it doesn’t surprise me. Marching up and down wearing bowler hats and occasional knee-capping are enjoyable activities that help to foster a sense of community, and hence contentment.
So, too, does mutual loathing based on ill-conceived religious and political certitudes. There is nothing quite so life-affirming as knowing you are utterly right and those people over there are utterly wrong… It is doubt that fosters unhappiness.
Ring a bell with anyone?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London