Where are you from? (A wee bit of cliché NI politics)
Arriving at Uni on my first day 10 years ago, I met lots of great people. People who may have lived in the same town as me for years but due to labeling at birth we were sent on different paths and mixed in different circles. I was most raging to find out how great the women were on the other side of the ‘divide’ and remember many times thinking, ‘I’d cross the peace bridge for her’.
The popularity of segregated education here is a core problem in Northern Ireland making the seemingly innocent question,’Where are you from?’ Not so innocent after all.
In somewhere like Northern Ireland, this is a loaded question.
For some people asking this question causes so much internal chaos, it’s like throwing a box of donuts into a weight watchers class.
If you live in France you are French, if you live it Scotland you are Scottish, and you move on, next question. I’m jealous of the simplicity of that.
In this contested bit of land the ‘Where are you from’ issue makes small talk around work and social environments like game of chess. Tactical negotiations to weed out who this person is.
That is, if you care. Like a lot of people here still do. There is peace here but it’s fragile. Check out the news once in a while and we pop up…. (At the time of writing they are talking about shutting Stormont down…again) there is nowhere like here.
Imagine Northern Ireland is a child caught in the middle of a messy divorce whose parents got split custody. Both parents, England and the Republic pretend to want us publicly but internally they wish they could leave us at a supermarket somewhere and drive off.
The parents get on well now for the sake of the child. But they have now made one messed up child.
At least we will grow up and be able to raise ourselves they thought. There have been many false dawns in this process but there is still hope. Currently Northern Ireland isn’t in a great mood. One wrong move from either mum or dad and we are going to huff until we get our way again. It’s the only way we know.
But there is another way. We can grow up. We can acknowledge that the past happened. Because it did. And it still echoes throughout the country now. But it doesn’t mean we can’t show mum and dad how much we have grown. What we can do.
One day we could stand on our own. Sort of. In my lifetime I would like to see Northern Ireland grow from the awkward angry kid who still relies on pocket money from mum and dad to one who has a part time job at Spar and helps out a wee bit.
Can the growing pains of the last forty-ish years be acknowledged and can we now find a way to build on them? One day, can we not depend so much on our divorced mum and dad? Can we finally move out of the house we grew up in? Because I do like it here…
I like where I’m from….
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