View from the Bridge: 51

by John Morrison


51: Irish Ayes

Milltown folk wake up on a blustery Good Friday to news that seems unimaginably good. We almost hold our breath; can the Irish really have come to an agreement... about anything?

The participants emerge from their internal exile. They're caffeinated beyond sleep after so many hours of talk, yet filled with a restrained euphoria. They hardly dare to show their feelings in case the Irish agreement turns out to be a false alarm... a mirthless practical joke... just one more telephone message with a coded warning.

One by one the pundits are wheeled out. In much the same way that Jack Charlton picked his football team, anyone who can boast a half-Irish grandmother is adding their two-penn'orth of knee-jerk opinion to the growing debate. Nevertheless, it's remarkable to watch a country growing up before your eyes, and its people given a chance to be better than they sometimes think they are. In fact, one of the few dissenting voices comes - sadly, yet predictably - from the Union of Balaclava Manufacturers. In a terse statement they bemoan the end of hostilities and the prospect of job-losses.

For far, far too long the political hardliners across the Irish Sea have been regarded as a benchmark for stubborn intransigence, fanning the flames of resentments that should have should have been allowed to cool centuries ago. The regulars at the Grievous Bodily Arms have long recognised these men of violence as fellow travellers on the broad highway of bigotry and intolerance.

These career drinkers - Milltown's own paramilitary wing - have adopted many of their attitudes. They're happy to resort to violence as first resort, in order to claim what is theirs by right. If only they could remember what that was. They maintain the right to march - albeit unsteady - through any area of Milltown they choose. That's usually after midnight, and merely to commemorate having had a skinful. They soon forget why they're marching and settle instead for urinating in the front yards of teetotallers, light-sleepers and other undesirables.

Stop press: That Irish agenda, in full...

1 Chairman's statement

2 Apologies. Just the one major absentee: the Rev Ian Paisley, who left a message to the effect that if he was speaking to anyone (which he isn't), it would merely be to announce that he wouldn't be attending the talks, and that on no account should anyone mistake this for any kind of apology.

3 Motion: Should we stop killing each other, or what?

4 Show of hands

5 Any other business

6 Tea and biscuits

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