Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady of Right Wing Union
Jack Unionism has made the famous statement that
Belfast is 'as British as Finchley'. It is something
of a mystery as to what that statement can possible
To get to grips with it, one must first of all understand
the use of hurrah and boo words and statements by
politicians - these are such:
schools - Hurrah words for the right and boos
words for the left.
- Hurrah words for the left and boo words
for the right.
Selection at eleven - Hurrah words for the
Right Wing Union Jack Unionism and boo words for
late Sinn Fein.
A United Ireland - Hurrah words for late Sinn
Fein and boo words for Right Wing Union Jack Unionism.
The Peace Process - Hurrah words for the late
Sinn Fein and now a boo word for the DUP.
Democracy - a hurrah word for President Bush
and a boo word for the Chinese Government.
Equality - a hurrah word for feminist, a boo
word for male chauvinist.
- a hurrah word in America and a boo word
Education, Education, Education - Hurrah words
for Tony Blair and boo words for the thousands
that are expelled from schools or who play truant.
In this way politics is littered with hurrah and
boo words and statements, and Mrs Thatcher's statement
that Ulster is 'as British as Finchley' is simply
a hurrah statement from Right Wing Union Jack unionists
and a boo statement for the late Sinn Fein and doesn't
amount to anything more than that.
Some time ago I heard Jeffery Donaldson say on television
that he wished to maintain a British way of life
in Northern Ireland; again this is a hurrah statement
for Right Wing Union Jack Unionism and a boo statement
for late Sinn Fein. There are those in Northern
Ireland who believe that a way of life is about
Religion, the holding of parades, the flaunting
of flags and banners, the paintings of murals on
a gable wall and the singing of an anthem. All of
these are far from the truth. These things listed
have to do with the nature of the State in which
one lives and have nothing to do with a way of life.
The way of life is determined by the economy of
the State in which one lives.
Some years ago a man from Texas came to my home
in Belfast; this was his first time ever out of
Texas. When he got to know my home he was astounded
to find we had electricity, hot and cold water on
tap, central heating, two televisions, a dish washer,
a washing machine and a fridge freezer, carpets,
a hoover and a car. The Texan exclaimed to me, "Your
way of life is just the same as our way of life
in Texas". The Texan had got it right. What
he found in our home was a way of life and that
way of life was determined by the economy.
The image which the Texan must have brought with
him was that he was coming to a hovel with a pig
in the parlour, that I drove a donkey and cart,
and that my wife and daughter walked behind wearing
shawls and long dresses and were bare footed and
that the family lived on a diet of salt potatoes
and buttermilk. Such may have been the image of
the way of life in Ireland a long time ago, due
to the disastrous nature of the Irish economy, and
this image may still infect the minds of Right Wing
Union Jack Unionism.
The way of the life depends solely on the nature
and performance of the economy in which one lives.
Where the economy is strong, with a high level of
employment and a high level of growth and abundance
of money, with low interest rates and prices
in such an economy there should be a high Household
income, where the Household can afford essentials,
consumer durables and luxuries with a nutritional
diet. In that case the way of life is one of high
Where the economy is weak and in recession and the
level of unemployment in rising, Household incomes
are falling and there is a scarcity of money with
rising interest rates and prices, then if the Household
has difficulty in making ends meet, can't afford
essentials, consumer durables and luxuries and cannot
afford a nutritional diet then the way of life is
one of poor quality.
If one looks at Africa or Eastern Europe where the
economies are weak then the way of life in these
countries is one of very poor quality indeed.
In the sixties in Northern Ireland the economy was
flat, sluggish and recessive. Under the old Stormont
there was some investment in new industry but this
was sited in Protestant districts; apart from that
there were levels of objectionable poverty in both
communities, with high immigration levels to England,
America and Australia. This was happening despite
a high level of subsidisation of Northern Ireland
by the British exchequer, which led me to doubt
the Keynesian doctrine that a Government should
spend its way out of a recession. This doctrine
didn't seem to hold for Northern Ireland. As for
the economy of the Republic of Ireland, it was a
piece of deadwood with widespread objectionable
levels of unemployment and massive emigration and
I have relatives who live in Donegal, Leitrim and
Mullingar, and in the United States. I find nowadays
that their way of life is no different from my own.
So to look back at Mrs Thatcher's statement then,
if Belfast is as British as Finchley, then my relatives
that live in Donegal, Leitrim, Mullingar and the
USA are as British as Finchley, since the ways of
life are nowadays much the same, and if Belfast
is as British as Finchley so is Dublin, since the
way of life in Belfast and Dublin is now quite similar.
So Margaret Thatcher's statement may well be a piece
of English snobbery going back to the days of the
Empire when the economy in Britain was very powerful,
being plundered from the wealth of the world, and
had a way of life of very high quality. In that
case the English saw it as their duty to bring a
superior way of life to the undeserving natives
of India, Africa and Ireland.
In the twenty first century ways of life in the
developed countries are very much the same.
So the way of life in an Irish Christian Liberal
Democracy within the United Kingdom would have nothing
to do with the trappings of State, Religion or what
one calls oneself. The way of life would depend
solely on the nature of the economy in the State.
Where the economy is strong then the way of life
will be one of high quality. Where the economy is
weak and in recession, then the way of life will
be one of poor quality with the Irish having to
tighten their belts. It's as simple as that.