Monday, August 16, 2010

I was born in Belfast on the 12th of July, famous in Northern Ireland as a day of marches. A colleague writing from Belgium today, on another matter, asked: "does the fact there is now fighting on the streets of Ulster mean I have forgotten your birthday?" At my age, I am perfectly happy to forget birthdays, but it did remind me, in the light of the current upsurge in violence, of some words of Winston Churchill's in 1922.

“Then came the Great War: every institution, almost, in the world was strained. Great Empires have been overturned. The whole map of Europe has been changed. The position of countries has been violently altered. The modes of thought of men, the whole outlook on affairs, the grouping of parties, all have encountered violent and tremendous changes in the deluge of the world. But as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short, we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world.”
Unfortunately, we have two groups of people living side by side, but with elements of each group not recognising the other as part of the same human race. Until that changes I fear that we will simply continue to have a resurgence of violence with each generation. One thing that might help would be to educate children of both religions together. Falling birth rates may help as many existing schools, in rural areas, are no longer viable and are even (shock...) merging boys' and girl's schools. the few inegrated schools remain largely the preserve of the middle class, who when I was growing up there mixed socially anyway. But it will take at least another generation....

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