17:49

Ireland - hope in the air

There was something very moving about the Queen’s visit to Ireland this week. The weight of history was palpable but I don’t think it’s being sentimental to think that some sort of corner really has been turned and a return to the bad old days is unlikely. That was in the south.
In the north I sense a similar change that was vocalized by a friend of mine who is an old fashioned Ulsterman – Protestant and a landowner in the Ian Paisley heartland of Antrim. In the past he was Orange to the core and viscerally opposed to any sort of union with the Republic. Now he is cheerfully different. Why? ‘Because it’s not a theocracy any more – the priests don’t run it now.’
Put like that I now see where he was coming from. In the week when Garet Fitzgerald, the man who started that change died, and in the year when the Catholic church in Ireland has been so discredited by the child abuse scandals, there really is hope that the border could melt away over a generation or two. Or at least be the sort of Benelux border that you hardly notice.
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