I grew up in a household where there was no such place as Northern Ireland. Instead, we were, and still are, required to refer to the region as “The North of Ireland.” This is because my family’s Irish ancestry (much of it very recent) is rooted primarily in the North, in Derry and Armagh – two places not exactly known for a willingness to peacefully accept their lot as British subjects.
Admittedly, I haven’t paid much attention to Irish politics in a while. I went through the whole Plastic Paddy Republican Thing back in the 80’s and 90’s, but since 1997-98 – and especially since the 9/11 attacks in New York actually showed me what it’s like when things explode and kill people in my hometown – I, like most Irish-American posers, pretty much lost interest in the Troubles.
We’re Americans, after all, and we have our own f-ing problems.
Much of my family, however, is still in the thick of things, so the latest news from Ireland – a devastating economic meltdown and the killings of two British soldiers and a Catholic PSNI constable – comes as a bit of a slap. I think we’d been lulled into forgetting how irrational each side could be.
I’m hoping for two things here.
I can understand the Irish viewpoint that the fight’s not over until there’s one contiguous 32 county republic, but I’m hoping they have the awareness to realize that random acts of violence don’t go over quite as well as they used to when you’re trying to gather support, especially when you’re looking at things from an American perspective. Car bombs aren’t quite so glamorous when they start killing people you know. I’m as anti-partition as the next Irish-American-barstool-jerkoff, but cooler heads kind of need to prevail here.
More than that, however, I’m hoping that the past decade has tempered the British tendency toward overreaction in the North (see: Bloody Sunday, Easter Rising, et al). The British have always responded to a push with a punch, and a punch with a gunshot. I’m hopeful things have changed in that regard, too. The British are in the catbird seat here. They have the public’s sympathy and support as a result of the recent attacks, and they can hang onto that by not flying into a frenzy and sending in 10,000 troops to reoccupy the region the way many of us fear they will.
From the outside looking in, this is just shit I never thought we’d see again. I probably should have known better.