Friday, May 06, 2005

That Other Election, In Northern Ireland

While the spin and discussion of Great Britain's results continues, the outcome in Northern Ireland is being revealed this afternoon. It can only be bad news that the extremists are making gains there, and that David Trimble- a decent chap by any standards -has lost his seat.

In many ways my reaction to these is more revealing of the relationship between Northern Ireland and Britain than anything else. This is akin to observing the results of a foreign country, where you have some vague hope for peaceful outcomes, but have no direct stake or interest. That very much reveals how bizarre our current relationship with the province is. I have no memory of an IRA terrorist threat and developments in the peace process seem similar to foreign affairs news. The fact that there is now a completely independent political process in Northern Ireland is remarkable, and further reinforces the cultural divide. I've often thought that the English nationalism we see amongst Unionists is actually alien; that they have become more English than the English. In many ways, the province is now so disconnected to the UK that some sort of devolved existence, perhaps with its eventual divorce from Westminster altogether, would be increasingly natural.