It’s great isn’t it, this Northern identity?

Mairead Corrigan Maguire won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire won the Nobel Peace Prize.

We need to build a shared Northern Irish identity says Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire. Ms Corrigan Maguire, one of the joint founders of the Peace People, believes nationalists must accept there’ll never be a reunited Ireland.

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” is the inscription at the gates of hell according to Dante’s Inferno. (Dante was a 14th century Florentine poet.) Incidentally, a street preacher in Coleraine the other day assured passers-by that the bible says it’s written at the entrance to Hell.

That’s the trouble with writers like Dante and Shakespeare. They get mixed up with the prophets and cause all sorts of confusion.)

Sorry, that was a wee digression. The point is that if we give up our national identity we abandon hope. “Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” signs could be erected at every border crossing into the North.

There’s no question of those who want to see Ireland reunited giving up on their long-held aspiration. It’s not going to happen. Save your breath to cool your porridge, Ms Corrigan Maguire.

Anyway, even if we were interested in a “Northern” identity there would be two problems. Firstly, this place is too small to have a proper identity and secondly, what we’ve seen of one so far is about as attractive as a disfiguring illness. There’s not much to be proud of.

“That’s bad news,” said a friend reading a newspaper the other day. “What’s that,” says I, fearing something dreadful. “A judge has allowed Jamie Bryson to make speeches again,” says the friend. Honestly, some people lack an appreciation of free speech. Either that or they have a sense of humour!

Now there’s a man (young Bryson) who has a vision of a Northern identity, I thought to myself. It involves lots of flags all over the place. It can be a “shared future” as long as we all accept there should be a flag on every pole. (It would be a flag on every Pole, if some of his supporters had their way.)

What else could our Northern identity include?

Well, we could have parades, as well as flags, all over the place. The “marching season” could be extended from the 1st January to the 31st December each year. Of course, with a “shared future” both sides could have their marches.

And we could have our own ultra conservative and socially regressive rules. That would mark us out from progressive societies. We wouldn’t have to be like sinful Sodom and Gomorra, sorry Dublin or London. We wouldn’t have to allow gay people to adopt children or to stay in a hotel. We wouldn’t have to accept blood donated by gay people. Come to think of it we wouldn’t have to have gay people. We could just have miserable people.

I say “rules” because we can have rules made by ministers but not legislation. We can’t have legislation because Stormont doesn’t do legislation. Everything gets blocked by one side or the other. “We’ve a legislature with no legislation,” as Joe Brolly put it on RTE with Brendan O’Connor. Stormont is an expensive talking shop and if we get the Civic Forum back, after an 11 year break, we’ll have a second expensive talking shop.

Meanwhile, as there isn’t enough money to go round we can invest in the east and not bother with the west. (Derry’s roads and railway would be good by now, if the money hadn’t been spent on places like Larne and Ballymena instead.)

We can have brutal attacks by vigilantes and paramilitaries all year round. We’ve had over 20 so far this year.

I could go on but you’ll have lost the will to live by now.

Great, isn’t it, this Northern identity?