There’s something about ‘designated special status’ for the North that sounds familiar. And there’s something about London’s blank refusal of special status that’s familiar too.
When Thatcher refused to grant paramilitary prisoners special category status (essentially prisoner of war status), the results were almost devastating.
A few years later, Margaret Thatcher was nearly killed in an IRA bomb in a Brighton hotel. The bomb exploded directly above her room. Luckily for her, she was in another room at the time.
The conflict is over, but once again, Sinn Fein’s demands are not being met.
However, the Tory government’s refusal to give in to Republicans’ demands won’t lead to an assassination attempt on the Prime Minister. This time the Shinners are going in for the kill differently. They’re going to try to reunify Ireland and kill the existing United Kingdom itself.
But it would be more of a scratch than a fatal wound to England. Most people in England don’t really care about the North of Ireland; they watch events there with curiosity and bemusement and sometimes astonishment. It would actually be a burden lifted off the backs of the English.
We’re living through strange times on these islands.
We’ve lived through 20 years of peace, Martin McGuinness shaking hands with the Queen, the Queen speaking Irish in Dublin, Gerry Adams meeting Prince Charles, President Michael D Higgins attending an event in London to celebrate Ireland’s contribution to Britain.
But recently, the tensions are rising once again.
Relations were at their best in 800 years until Ukip came and spoiled it all by scaring the Tories into having a referendum. The fear of both immigration and the Eurocrat bogey-man was enough to convince a majority of voters in two of the 4-piece jigsaw that is the UK to vote Leave.
Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson told Teresa May to forget about dividing Ireland even more by putting a hard-border in place between North and South. ‘Stick it where the sun doesn’t shine, because you’re not putting it in Ireland,’ she said.
This border would run across country lanes, bridges and fields. Nobody wants a return to the tailbacks seen on the roads when the Troubles was at its worst.
But that could happen. If the North is not given designated Special Status within the EU, then Ireland will have a border that is much more important than it ever was before. It will be a border between the EU and a non-EU member state.
Before the Northern six counties becomes are reunified with the other twenty-six, Scotland will have to become independent. An independent Scotland would kill the UK more than anything the North could do.
It would leave a skeleton of a UK in place, its two biggest nations no longer united. It would be the divided kingdoms of England and Scotland.
Where would Northern Ireland fit into this new UK? Unionists in the North don’t really care about Wales. They don’t derive their sense of identity from the Welsh.
If Scotland leaves, perhaps they would realise that their culture and identity could be maintained outside of the UK. They might understand that not being part of the UK doesn’t make them less British, just as Britain leaving the EU doesn’t make them less European.
And maybe then, republicans would win a referendum. ‘A shared future’ is what they’ve been talking about for years now. If Ireland was to be united once more, a nation once again if you like, then it would undoubtedly be a shared unification. There would almost certainly still be a parliament in Belfast. The national flag, even though it is so apt, would have to be changed as well as our very average national anthem.
All we know at this stage is we are living in strange times.
I have just one wish: please don’t get whoever wrote Ireland’s Call to write our new national anthem.
It would ruin everything.