Way back in the mists of time…somewhere in the 1950’s of my childhood, there was a large walnut -coloured radio with a glowing dial , sitting high up on a plain wooden shelf above my head in our old family living-room. That and a vacuum cleaner might have been the only electrical gadget in the household.It was probably Saturday or Sunday . That would have been bath-time, back then , before television,fridges, everyday showers, twin-tub washing machines and central -heating .Saturday and Sunday was a special, cosy, family time of childhood. I’d be wrapped in a towel before the coal-fire and on the radio would come something like the raucous tones of “the Billy Cotton Bandshow”… That was what was then called an old-fashioned variety show. It had run on radio since World War Two a few years before and indeed would continue to run on radio and later would gravitate to television until well into the late 1960’s.”Wakey ! Wakey!” was Billy Cotton’s trenchant signature cry , followed by a raspberry of belting brass circus tunesmithery, which issued the show in.That was post-war life for most people in the UK and Ireland.
That image of “Wakey! Wakey! was forcibly brought to mind when I saw the voting percentages for Brexit in Norneverland, Ireland. Never let it be said that this is in any way a “normal” place. It’s never been a “normal” place.Some might say..and have done …that it’s as normal as Finchely in England….but let’s face it , it’s nowhere near as normal. People do not seem to think in any kind of logical way here .People like to divide Norneverland society into Protestants and Catholics or Unionists and Nationalists. It’s never that simple , but for the sake of Opinion Polls and the like, it appears to make figures more manageable.
Before the Brexit referendum, the bulk of businesses and business groups here supported remaining in the European Union.What do these business people know that we don’t know?
One survey, from the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, said 81% of its members backed staying in the European Union. What do these people know that we don’t know?.
The latest polls after the Brexit referendum to leave the European Union shows some fascinating results.It appears that a majority in Norneverland , Ireland, voted to remain in the EU but it also seems apparent that a majority of nominal Catholics ,or Nationalists, voted to remain in the EU as opposed to a minority of Protestants, even though the same economics will have a similar effect on all of the community , no matter their politics or religion.What do these unionists know that the economists don’t know?
In Britain it is apparent that that 63% of voters aged over 65 wanted to leave but only 20% of those between 16 and 24 took that route and voted accordingly ,to stay .Those outside of London(mostly male and northern working class, at 61%) were in favour of leaving the EU because they were told that immigration was the reason they had no jobs.In the educated middle classes , 59% supported staying.What did these educated people know that the rest didn’t know?
Like I say, we are not like the UK here and we didn’t vote in the same way here at all ,or even for the same kind of reasons as they did across the water in the UK. For the most part Norneverland barely exists on their radar there, anyway. In the UK a broad brush would paint the Brexit vote as mostly a ill-thought out vote about immigration and loss of jobs. There may also be some cultural fears feeding into it ,concerning the encroaching Muslim community and the threat of ISIS they associate with that.In the UK they had already assimilated The Jamaicans of the 1950’s and the Pakistanis in the 1960’s, but to some, any more immigrants was a step too far.In Norneverland , Ireland there was never the same scale of racial or cultural encroachment to deal with, possibly held at bay until relatively recently with our own little political “Troubles” which raved and raged on for some thirty years , effectively isolating us from the “norm”.We have never had the same “immigration” experience at all.We are different fro the UK.
In Norneverland the Brexit vote would always mean more to us than in the UK .There would always be a greater impact for all kinds of social and economic reasons. Ireland is a very different place with a very different history.Here we face the risk of almost complete economic isolation, not to mention the breaking down of the Good Friday Agreement and the gradual return of some kind of civil unrest, unheeded by a friendly non-partisan neighbour in the form of the EU.There was also the possibility of the return of a “border sensibility” which had long-since dissipated with the end of any security threat. A generation of young people has now grown up in a different sort of world; a world without the very idea of borders in either land or technology
So what of the voting patterns, given these fears.?It would seem that right across the community there are major differences.85% of all Catholics or Nationalists plumped for a “remain” vote . They obviously thought that their economic and social future was a more stable and safer place within the system they already knew. What did these people know that the rest didn’t know? That specific voting pattern showed a certain ” the- Devil -you -know -is -better- than -the -devil you -don’t -know” conservatism. There were only 15% of them voting to leave the EU.
Seen , generally as somewhat more conservative than nationalists, unionists instead voted by a majority to leave the EU.In this group , they almost mirrored the English vote with working-class Unionist/Protestants…some 71% of them, voting to leave , while 63% of the more middle class Protestants voted to stay. What did these middle -class unionists know that the rest of us didn’t know?
You might get the impression from these figures that , generally ,the more educated middle- classes wanted to remain in the EU, but their less educated fellows wanted to jump ship anyway, no matter the consequences.. It looks something like that to me.The long and the short of it is that Nationalists voted to stay overwhelmingly, while Unionists were generally ,all over the place. The extremely right wing True Unionist Voice(TUV) voted to leave by 89%, while the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) voted by 70% to leave also.Even the UUP voted by 54% to leave , while Alliance and the Greens voted to remain.
All of this is a very odd state of affairs, given that for Protestants/Unionists it will be the most destabilising event they will ever have the pleasure to be witness to in any generation….ever . Economically ,Norneverland, Ireland will need even more money from the the UK to replace what will now be lost and the spectre of a border returns for them to worry about at the very same time .There is a whole lot of risk coming up for Britain, alone , never mind this unique little adjunct to it.In Norneverland we have an economy which takes for granted regular subsidies from Brussels and London but it has also enjoyed all manner of trade agreements and benefits with its EU neighboutr in the Republic of Ireland. This will undoubtadly have to change in some way .It can’t remain the same when different rules apply in each place and we are no longer full economic partners.These new relationships bring huge unknown risks that have never really been teased out before .
So why would a conservative grouping like the generally Presbyterian Protestants /Unionists want to jump almost as one group into the darkness when they’ve a reputation for sloth-like caution ? It’s not as if the Conservatives in the UK wanted to make their less -dangerous jump. In the end they were forced into that position by that huge tranche of working -class voters who never seemed to see the huge risks involved .The Conservatives in the UK are reluctantly accepting the fate they didn’t want at all, but what mixture of spells and potions was driving unionism here in its jump off that cliff? Nobody was pushing them, after all. That potential economic suicide really is something of a mystery. It’s sounds awfully like sawing off the branch you are sitting on, doesn’t it? The price of fuel is about to rise , bringing with it an increase in food prices because of transport costs.Someone has been quoted as saying that it’s like turkeys voting for Christmas.
At the same time it’s becoming very apparent that even their own DUP Finance Minister , Simon Hamilton, had plumped his vote down to remain in the EU .(It’s economics….innit?) He hasn’t declared this to be the case, out loud ,in point of fact , but his silence either way ,speaks volumes. If the very Finance Minister can or cannot stand by his own instincts in matters of future national finance , what does that say about the party he currently hangs out in?They don’t appear to see all the dangers that everyone else has seen , but worse than that, they do not appear to have any semblance of a plan to steer a way forward to support their very strange choice.
As Billy Cotton would say …”Wakey! Wakey!”…..