The recent comment by Arlene Foster that she might leave Northern Ireland would have come to no surprise to anyone raised in the PUL community. The Republic has changed beyond recognition from Dev’s day and Northern republicans have moved on too but the old fear of ‘Doomsday’ remains. Here’s my tongue-in-cheek view of the unionist apocalypse.
It was perhaps inevitable the Norther Ireland Assembly would fall (again). Joint First Minister Norman Deeds had proposed an Ulster 21 commemoration to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland but Joint First Minister Michaela Mc’Neill would have none of it. In exasperation Norman agreed to a border poll if Michaela agreed to the commemoration if she lost. Both were confident of victory, but the result when it came, was a shock – 55% voted for a united Ireland.
There was a twelve month transition and on 5 May 2022, a public holiday known as Bobby Sands Day, the handover took place. The Free State army was poised on the border, ready to roll across at the very stroke of noon. Property prices had already collapsed as unionists scrambled to get out – a decent mansion could be had in Cultra for two hundred grand and there were riots in Glasgow as locals rebelled against loyalist refugees from Belfast getting all the houses.
But what really caused panic was the ferry strike. Even before it, a one-way crossing to Cairnryan cost £5,000, an Easyjet flight to Glasgow, £800. There was no way everyone could get out. The MOD promised to help but due to defence cuts, the Royal Navy only had twelve ships and the RAF a mere thirty helicopters and most of them were in Syria. The PSNI, ringed the Grand Central hotel where a few helicopters ferried loyal sons of Ulster from the hotel roof to the safety of Portpatrick. The PSNI ran out of plastic bullets and started firing live ammunition in the air to keep the desperate hordes back.
Orange Halls were mysterious bereft of royal portraits and band uniforms littered the streets as fear of execution gripped many a young defender, especially as their hero, Glen Parkhurst had abandoned them, using his position as an MLA to get a ticket on the last helicopter out. But he was too late, Jumbo McAllister, the fire brand opponent of all things Irish had bribed the Justice Minister, Gary O’Kelly, for a seat on the chopper. Glen was caught full in the face by Jumbo as he tried to get onboard, a vicious right-hander that was captured by a Reuters photographer in an image that would become an iconic of the death of Northern Ireland. Stephen Nolan and Vinny covered the event live on the final biggest show in the country. Every caller was weeping uncontrollably.
While that was taking place, the armored spearhead of the Irish Defence Forces raced up the M1, pausing briefly at Sprucefield to enjoy the exchange rate of £2.95 to the Euro. At 3:05pm, an armored car, under the direct command of Defence Minister McAdam crashed through the barrier at Stormont. The driver ignored the frantic request of the security man for its registration and the vehicle sped up the hill before stopped at Carson’s statute. Sergeant P O’Neill got out and draped a tricolor around Carson’s shoulders and a traffic cone on his head. After 101 years, it was all over.
Sam Thompson is an occasional blogger, writer and historian, his latest book is ‘The Lesser Evil: A Political & Military History of World War II 1937-45‘.
You can find him on Twitter at: @JarrieSam