The amazing power of the big myth

Justin Cartwright
Justin Cartwright

Myths are strange. In some ways they’re like lies. The worst dictators in history knew that big lies are more likely to be believed than little ones. That’s also how myths work. Once a big myth has taken hold in popular thinking, there’s no shaking it.

Last week we heard about an SDLP council candidate in Belfast who has described himself as an “economic unionist” and he also says the Union Flag is the “flag of the country”. Australian, Justin Cartwright (29), tells us that increasing numbers of nationalists are moving away from the idea of a united Ireland on economic grounds. “They look at the economy of the Republic and they see a foundering ship,” he says.

In fact, the “foundering ship” is closer to home. The economy in the Republic is actually remarkably strong. Yes, there was a severe crisis in the public finances following a grossly inflated property bubble and inadequate regulation of the banks but the country’s economic fundamentals remain strong. The south has a manufacturing base; we don’t. We’re the ones living on Benefits Street.

The huge myth says independence from Britain has been bad for the Republic. It hasn’t. It has been fantastically good for the Republic. The reverse has been the case here in the North. Linkage with the UK has brought us relative decline. I’ll spare you the economics in detail but joining the Republic would be good for us, too.

It is crazy that the bigger the myth the more people are inclined to believe it.