Dissidents on the wrong side of the tracks – and history

The mind of the Republican dissident must be a very dark and dilapidated place, bereft of ideas and locked into a grim past.

No hope and nothing to offer, except a return to what they might consider as the golden days of bombing, shooting and wrecking.

While most of us are trying to move – however hesitantly – forward, they remain wedded to a creepily repetitive liturgy of violence and destruction.

You might expect that sort of narrative on their ‘heroics’ from a Unionist, right?

But hold on, isn’t one of their aims the reunification of Ireland? Do they not see themselves as the ‘inheritors’ of 1916? Is it not the case that everyone else has sold out, leaving them alone to carry the Republican mantle of Pearse, Connolly et al?

Let’s see just how those who seem to share their warped mindset set about making that vision of ‘an Ireland of equals’ a reality.

Monday morning, I was up at 6am for an early train journey – to Dublin, to sample the atmosphere of that great city 100 years after the rising.

It certainly wasn’t going to change my politics or turn me into a mad Rebel. After all, on Easter Monday last year I became the first Unionist to sing an Orange song in the GPO on O’Connell St.

So I was hardly likely to be dissuaded from my loyal ways by a day’s wandering around, taking in some of the re-enactments and maybe even a talk or two on the events that changed this island forever.

There was me in the house, waiting for my lift over to the railway station for the train to Baile Átha Cliath: loudest floral shirt I could find, vittles for the journey (banana, a few biscuits and some good oul Norn Iron Tayto – yes, that’s right, the ones made in Tandragee, Co Armagh, not them ‘other’ wans made in Ashbourne, Co Meath).

Aye, and some reading as well. I always read when I’m on the train, except when we’re passing Malahide, where I excitedly rush from one side of the carriage to the other to take some photos in the hope of a shot fit for the Newsline weather segment.

As for the reading, I’d a wonderful little book of WW1 poetry, not the big name stuff, but verse written by local soldiers – Protestants and Catholics – from the fronts of the Somme, Ypres, Verdun and other places still etched deeply in our collective memory.

Sadly, not a page was turned, not a Tayto was eaten and not a Newsline-fit picture was taken, as my Free State foray was cancelled just as suddenly as the original plan for a rising on Easter Sunday was cancelled by Eoin Mac Neill.

Trouble on the rail tracks at Lurgan. A common-enough occurrence and one which has disrupted the travel plans of countless Enterprise users over the years. All the usual contingency plans swung into place but the inevitable delay, bus transfers and potential hassle that entailed made me think again.

So I didn’t go. I had wanted to be there early to make it worth my while and it just didn’t seem worth while anymore.

‘Trouble on the tracks’ encompasses a wide variety of moronic entertainments for those whose patriotic Republican responsibility it is to stop the trains. Burning vans at level crossings; petrol bombs thrown at police, and that old favourite – flaming bins on the line.

What idiot could possibly have thought it was a good idea to sabotage the rail link on a day when they knew many would have been going to Dublin for a bit of crack after the solemnity of Sunday’s commemorations?

Sure, they stopped me, as a Unionist, from going, but I’m sure they prevented or at least hugely inconvenienced many others too – and among them would have been a not insignificant number who might prefer a verse or two of ‘James Connolly’ to ‘Billy McFadzean’ (same tune, very different words).

These bold patriots certainly have a sense of occasion. They’ve about as much chance of uniting Ireland as I have of uniting Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in a civil partnership.

At least I had a Plan B. I stayed at home and watched an excellent Apprentice Boys parade. It might sound odd to switch from visiting Dublin on Easter Monday to enjoying a Loyal Orders march: but I guess I tick a lot of cultural boxes.

That’s the difference between the real world and the dissidents. They tick no boxes (apart from the one for being idiots) and they’ve no Plan B…