My children are laughing at me, and not for the first or last time. It’s some years since Girl2 told her teacher not to bring me along should their class win a national competition and be rewarded with a trip to Downing St, ‘My mum won’t shake Mr Cameron’s hand’… She was right of course, and I’m sure the teacher was entertained.
My feelings towards the Westminster Government haven’t changed. I avoid much of the news because there is only so much outrage my blood pressure and my family can take. My mind does not use polite words when I consider the damage done to health, welfare and education, the jobless, homeless and the disabled. The use of foodbanks soars and the wealthy become even more so. There is no sense that a more equal society is something that should even be aspired to. There is no commonality of purpose. There is no value given to those lives that are not a particular sort of English- generally, healthy, wealthy and white.
I live in that part of Ireland that is part of the United Kingdom. Our politics is more British than Irish. The First Minister of our local assembly likes to wear a crown brooch in case anyone should doubt where her loyalties (and those of a majority of voters) lie. For reasons that escape me, she and her party have come out in favour of voting for a UK exit from the European union, the so called ‘Brexit’. A century of unionist politics in Ireland has been about the border; creating it, defending it- literally, with many people giving their lives.
And now, well, this is one of the things I don’t get. NI is part of the UK. It shares a land border with a member country of the EU (the Republic of Ireland, which is not considering leaving the EU). Either that border will be used to limit migration to the UK, or it won’t, and there will be no limit on migration to the UK. Limiting immigration appears to be a key purpose of the ‘Brexit’ campaign. But how? I read a suggestion that travel between the island of Ireland and GB (the land mass of England, Wales and Scotland) would be somehow limited. What would that do to NI position within the UK? Is it possible that our First Minister and her party, by supporting ‘Brexit’ could actually weaken the union? Surely that’s not possible? (Unintentionally hilarious, true, but damnably inconvenient.) Where will the lines be redrawn?
There are many and various ways of thinking about the position of the UK in Europe. Europe has been good to Northern Ireland- peacebuilding, infrastructure, research, training, employment, education, social policy. For the same reasons, the European Union is itself a worthwhile project. Partnerships, collaboration, learning together, supporting each other as both individuals and governments.
‘Brexit’ has no precedent. Nobody knows what will happen if the majority of UK voters vote ‘leave’. I just can’t see how it could be a good thing to leave any and all decisions to Westminster, and not only when it’s run by a wealthy, self serving crowd like Dave and his mates.
And the sting? The really painful thing is that Dave and, god help us, George, want to remain in the EU. The Conservative party are fighting amongst themselves, using Europe as the topic. I have to side with Dave, because the alternative is Brexit, and that makes no sense to me. I want to be part of something bigger and better. I want to be part of something that can hold governments to right. I want to be part of something that can influence and support. I want to be part of something that values my humanity, and the humanity of all others.
Bizarrely, I’ll be voting with Dave, and my head might explode.
other views do exist: Money Saving Expert (blog post) The Guardian (many articles) Daily Telegraph (many articles) Jamie Mutton (blog post found on social media) Genetic Alliance (policy)