irelandMy last blog was about the flag-flying tendency in my home location of Northern Ireland. I’m unusually fastidious when it comes to terminology, which I always blame on my background in computer programming (where names have to be exactly right or they won’t work), but Northern Ireland represents a problem for me, because it’s not at all clear what it is.

Even the UK government has no fixed notion of what to call the place. Sometimes, they’ll refer it as a “region” or “province”, but sometimes as one of “four countries” of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Well, England and Scotland are clearly countries, once independent of each other, even after King James of Scotland inherited the English crown and became King of both.

Wales is probably a country, although the historical position isn’t as clear cut. When England annexed Wales, the outgoing native Welsh ruler was only regarded as a Prince, and Wales a Principality. Does that count?

I’m quite clear that the “Province”, or indeed “Ulster” are quite wrong, since three counties of Ulster aren’t in Northern Ireland. Ireland has four provinces.

Northern Ireland, though, has no history of independent existence. It was established by the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, which defined its area, but omitted to declare what it actually was. The other part of Ireland was called, sensibly enough, “Southern Ireland”, although the first and only election to the Parliament of Southern Ireland returned 124 abstentionist Sinn Féin MPs out of 128 seats.

But given that what was once Southern Ireland is unquestionably a country today, perhaps Northern Ireland is too.

While my compulsion is to use only exact, defined terms, what others call the place can depend on their tribe, either Nationalist or Unionist, so I’ll leave you with my own definitions of those names.

Nationalism: The curious belief that we would be better off being ruled by a bunch of arseholes in Dublin than by a bunch of arseholes in London. Or indeed in Stormont.

Unionism: The curious belief that we would be better off being ruled by a bunch of arseholes in London than by a bunch of arseholes in Dublin. Or indeed in Stormont.


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