Tim McGarry: Unionists — take your campaign against a united Ireland down south

Admit it.

By Tim McGarry
Friday, 3rd December 2021, 12:44 am
Updated Friday, 3rd December 2021, 12:49 am
Tim McGarry, who writes a column for the News Letter every other Thursday.
Tim McGarry, who writes a column for the News Letter every other Thursday.

Wouldn’t it be absolutely hilarious if nationalists finally persuaded unionists of the merits of a united Ireland, won a border poll hands down only for southern Ireland to go “Naw. Thanks, but no thanks.”

This was the tantalising prospect held out by a poll down south which showed 60% support for Irish unity if a border poll were to be held tomorrow.

Of course 60% is either a thumping majority or a dismal showing depending on which lamppost you hang your flag from.

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Drop in to Aras an Uachtarain* (*Michael D Higgins’ house) and demand to know where the Deputy First President’s Office is

Jeffrey Donaldson said it was “remarkably low”. Well maybe, but not as low as 52% which is now the accepted benchmark for making cataclysmic constitutional change.

Still, 60% must be worrying for advocates of Irish unity.

One of the consequences of a 100 years of partition is that most southerners don’t really know people from the north. And we don’t know them very well either.

If Taoiseach Micheal Martin arrived at the average house in Northern Ireland he probably wouldn’t be recognised. It’s far more likely that he would be mistaken for someone who wanted to tarmac your driveway.

Give anti-vaxxers the wrong treatment. For a broken leg prescribe listening to Van Morrison’s latest album

So this poll is a real opportunity for unionism.

Let’s face it Ulster Protestants have an, often unfair, reputation for being ... how can I put this politely?...dour, sour-baked, stubborn, thran, carnaptious and frankly unpleasant.

This is a real asset to be exploited.

So here’s my advice to unionists.

Forget about trying to make Northern Ireland work, (it never will), instead concentrate on making yourselves so thoroughly obnoxious and unattractive as to ensure a landslide No vote down south.

Unionists should immediately launch a campaign to put southerners off a United Ireland. We could call it “Operation You Couldn’t Like Us”

This, of course, is where Jim Allister would really come in to his own. Exposing Jim to a southern audience and letting him just be himself is bound to enrage and alienate anyone who sees him.

He should set up a southern branch of the TUV and run for the Dail and get on RTE as much as possible.

But don’t stop there. Unionists should go on special missions down south with instructions to annoy as many people as possible.

Firstly, every time you meet a southerner make sure to always call the south “Eire”. It really winds them up.

Deliberately mispronounce Taoiseach and Tanaiste – to be fair unionists are already great at doing this — and always remember to roll your eyes and sigh when anyone speaks Irish.

Keep reminding southerners that a British team won the All-Ireland this year. Also keep asking southerners what the All-Ireland is.

Drop in to Aras an Uachtarain* (*Michael D Higgins’ house) and demand to know where the Deputy First President’s Office is.

Send Stephen Nolan on a 26 county live tour and let people stare in amazement as he claims to be the “biggest show in the country”.

“Country? The 6 Counties is a country??”

Or best of all just drive a big bus all around the south with a slogan written on the side of it: “Britain gives Northern Ireland £10 billion a year. How much are you willing to pay?”

That’s the Union safe for another 100 years.

You can thank me later.

• I would give anti-vaxxers medical treatment – the wrong treatment

How has your week been?

Probably better than that of a North Macedonian women’s football fan. Or a Barbadian royalist. Or a council chief executive watching ‘Spotlight’.

Mine was OK until I tried to watch ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’.

I didn’t recognise any of the celebrities. My son said they were all Z list nobodies and were so obscure he was surprised I didn’t get the call.

I didn’t let this annoy me because I’m an easy-going person, a stranger to anger.

But I’m afraid to say that this week the mask-dodgers, Covid-sceptics and vaccine scaredy cats really are starting to challenge my natural equanimity.

Three DUP MPs voted against mask-wearing. What have the DUP got against masks? Fair enough the Shinners have traditionally been very pro-mask. Especially in the 70s, 80s and 90s but that was pre-pandemic.

Worst of all there was an anti-vax protest in Belfast last week during which a woman read out an anonymous letter from a ‘real’ nurse.

Among the numerous ludicrous allegations in this farrago of fabrication and fakery was the claim that medical staff were being asked to lie in hospital beds and pretend to be sick with Covid.

This was simultaneously hilarious and grossly offensive to hard-working NHS staff. But what can NHS staff do when faced with bare-faced liars? How do you deal with hysterical people who compare having to show a QR code on your phone to the Nazi death camps?

The Hippocratic Oath requires medical people to treat the ill, no matter how stupid those people are. I’m not saying that anti-vaxxers should be denied medical treatment. Of course not. I would give them medical treatment. But I would give them the wrong medical treatment.

If an anti-vaxxer turns up at A&E with a broken leg simply prescribe listening to Van Morrison’s latest album. It’ll take their mind off the pain.

Or even better let these self-appointed medical experts treat each other. Anti-vaxxers should play Russian Roulette with their own health the same way they do with ours.

Let Piers Corbyn do Paul Frew’s ingrown toenail. Let Paddy Barnes have a go at an appendectomy. After all they’ve all done their “own research”. How hard can it be?

The Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition (FICT) report has been published, after a long delay.

Setting up such a commission was the right thing to do. If Northern Ireland is to be a harmonious, stable society in which people across the community can feel respected in their identity and cultural affiliations, then the very least we can do is try to navigate a way through these thorny topics.

The report is 168 pages long so will take some time to absorb. That it has been able to make 44 recommendations given the breadth of its commissioner base (seven of whom were from political parties) is progress of sorts.

But on core topics such as flying flags from lamposts and public buildings, on terrorist memorials, and on the handling of bonfires there is no agreement.

That Declan Kearney, the chairman of Sinn Fein, is calling for an “orderly implementation” of the proposals hardly gives cause for optimism about the likely fate of the report.

While the approach of republicans towards, for example, the Northern Ireland centenary has been depressingly intransigent, in a way it has helped to clarify things. There is no generosity and there seems to be little prospect of generosity.

Disgracefully, Northern Ireland has not been allowed to celebrate its 100th birthday — we have not even been allowed to be marked at Stormont with a centenary stone. Not even a church service of celebration of our wonderful country (the Armagh service barely mentioned NI, let alone celebrated it).

What chance is there of wider agreement?

And what prospect is there of consensus on bonfires given that Sinn Fein and the SDLP over the summer took to the courts to try to force a resolution to a contested bonfire in north Belfast? Or when there are efforts to float the idea of two national flags flying on public buildings in NI, which would be a symbolic undermining of UK sovereignty and the consent principle?

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