Saturday 17 March 2018

Eilis O’Hanlon: Unresolved contradictions haunt North like Banquo

Eilis O’Hanlon

IF THERE was one thing that used to annoy nationalists in the North, it was calling Northern Ireland "the Province". It was an insult on a par with calling Britain "the Mainland", suggesting, as it did, that the first was merely an insignificant adjunct of a much bigger, more important country, and that the natives up there ought to know their place.

In fact, Province wouldn't be such a bad word even now, if it could be stripped of its negative connotations. Using it would be a reminder that, whether it belongs rightly to Britain, Ireland or Alaska, the North is a small, negligible piece of earth, over which those thousands of murders were neither justified nor necessary. Instead, Belfast's new masters of the universe continue to collude in the myth that what happened in the North was some special, magical struggle, with its own moral parameters, all of which fully justified the sacrifices that innocent people were forced to make on its behalf.

The IRA may have been ready for a settlement by the early Nineties, but there was such a wearied willingness to let them have it that no one ever dared point out to the republican movement that this way of seeing the Troubles was obscene.

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