Monday 29 May 2017

The toddler politics of the North cannot be indulged

Rushing to Northern Ireland's aid at every self-inflicted crisis only encourages it to not grow up

More Brothers Grim than Chuckle Brothers: Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister and First Minister of Northern Ireland, speaking to journalists as they left Number 10 Downing Street last October Photo: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
More Brothers Grim than Chuckle Brothers: Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister and First Minister of Northern Ireland, speaking to journalists as they left Number 10 Downing Street last October Photo: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Eilis O'Hanlon

Poet John Montague, who died in December at the age of 87, compared his own evolving relationship with the Northern Irish Troubles to fellow poets' attitude towards the French Revolution.

In an archive interview broadcast on RTE Radio One's Bowman: Sunday: 8.30 programme last week, the Tyrone-born writer described how the Romantics went through stages of excitement and "awakening", then endured the "bloody exchange" and "stasis" that followed, before finally "having to turn away from the contemplation of this horror into some sort of resolution within themselves".

For Montague, his own excitement came with the civil rights movement, when suddenly it felt as if there was the possibility of positive change in the North; the "awakening" was the rapid growth of consciousness of the political situation; then came the galloping contagion of sectarian violence, which fostered a putrid inertia; finally, the inevitable turning away.

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