CSI Belfast….is nothing to do with CSI Las Vegas, CSI Miami or CSI New York.
This is Cohesion, Sharing and Integration which should be a strategy for doing something about bringing the people of Norn Iron closer together. To tell the truth, nobody is really interested. Most of us think that we are ok as we are….we get on ok with Themmuns and basically we will get on a helluva lot better if people just leave us alone.
Getting on with each other is brilliant. Having an all-party (five party) coalition sit round a table and hammer out formal arrangements for getting along with each other is something that is too much work….best left to highly paid advisors and experts in Conflict Resolution.
Norn Iron is a divided society. There are actually FIFTY NINE walls, barriers or gates between the two tribes. NINE have actually been erected since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. They are all in urban areas…Belfast, Derry and Portadown. The conventional wisdom is that this presents a very bad image of Norn Iron. But I think that is contradicted by the number of tourists who come to Belfast and gazing on our peace walls which (boohoo) tragically (sic) divide us is as important to the Belfast tourist industry as casinos are to Las Vegas, Mickey Mouse is to Florida and the Statue of Liberty is rot New York.
It is our Unique Selling Point. Therefore the walls will stay. But highly paid Conflict Resolutionists have to justify themselves….so it is hoped (says their latest document) that the walls come down by 2022. Good luck with that one. Helpfully they tell us that this will be achieved in full consultation with local people.
Alas the walls are there for a reason. These are interfaces which were makeshift barricades erected in 1969 and made better and bigger by British Army engineers. Obviously this gave peace of mind to people who lived in these places but made policing much easier.
And they have stayed. Safety is also cited as the reason. But it is not the only reason. These are walls that seperate not merely warring factions. These are walls that seperate Britain from Ireland in a pachwork across Belfast. These ghettoes facilitate people being exactly what they are …British and Irish. And I suspect thats what really annoys the Conflict Resolutionists anxious to create a homogenous and frankly British society.
Yet it would be a mistake to think that peace “walls” are always visible. They are as much a part of a rural landscape as they are of the urban landscape. Norn Iron is a patchwork of towns with (to the locals) clear if invisible borders….and the patchwork of villages often only two miles apart are evidence of division….Protestant Aghalee is just two miles from Aghagallon. Protestant Birches just two miles from Catholic Maghery. Protestant Coagh just three miles from Catholic Ardboe. Protestant Moneymore three miles from Catholic Draperstown. And so on. No “walls” …just fields with a load of sheep or cattle. But the local knows well enough where it is safe to wear the Rangers shirt. And where its safe to wear the Celtic shirt.
Indeed even in Belfast…the borderlines have been landscaped. The Westlink road links two motorways and at points along it provides a “natural” barricade. Living in this village, I am free to express my Irishness in any way I see fit…fly the flag while Ireland participates in international sport. Fly the Armagh flag when Armagh are involved in GAA Championship.
Why make Belfast different? Why make Belfast almost uniquely and by force homogenous. Of course there are plans afoot to regulate the flyining of flags (thats also hinted at in CSI document) but….ALL flags? The logical outcome of shared space is the “shopping mall” strategy…where the security staff will bar entry to people wearing a football shirt.
I have history here. Belfast always had “mixed streets”…streets which were not exclusively Protestant or Catholic. I lived in such a street in West Belfast. To our left and behind us was Protestant. To our right and in front of us was Catholic. Indeed we lived in the middle of the street (1951-1970) and although the demographics changed during those two decades, the middle of the street was more mixed than any other part of the street.
There was a certain etiquette …protocol to living in a mixed street. Some British flags DID fly around the Twelfth of July, in the late 1960s guarded by a bored young RUC officer from a nearby barracks…but in general there was a respect your neighbours ethos such as “dont play football on Sunday cos Protestants would be annoyed” but it always struck me that when I turned the corner into Catholic territory, I was more at ease. I could be…myself.
Of course part of the new CSI document is just risible nonsense. They are just making it up for a laugh. Take our divided education system……..which I think benefits nationalism and so I like it. After all nationalism is about highlighting those differences which make us uniquely Irish (or indeed British, French or Hungarian). Let me be clear I am NOT suggesting that Religion is or should be a marker of Irishness …merely saying that a homogenous Norn Iron is hardly in the nationalist interest. In contrast a homogenous society is (mostly) in unionist interest.
But take this gem. State schools……yeah verily even nursery (kindergarten) schools should have a buddy system where children are encouraged to befriend a child from the other tribe…they will be paired off. How unbelieveably sanctimonious and patronising is that?
A better idea might be if a child from affluent Cultra was encouraged to pair off with a Catholic child from disadvantaged Poleglass or a Protestant child from disadvantaged Lower Shankill Road……….ah say the Conflict Resolutionists thats er different.
It is risible.