My name is Jude, and I’m a wrong-thinker
By Jude Collins (for Belfast Media)
I wish I wasn’t but I’m afraid I am. Twist and turn, duck and weave, in the end the brutal truth confronts me: I am a wrong-thinking person. How do I know? Because when people start a sentence with “All right-thinking people will...” I end up disagreeing with them.
Alex Attwood was the most recent instance of this grim fact. “All right-thinking people will welcome the visit of Queen Elizabeth to the Republic” Alex said. So I shut my eyes and tried to see myself shoulder-to-shoulder with these right-thinking people who believe, as Taoiseach John Bruton did the time Prince Charles visited, that an unspecified day in May will be the happiest day of their life. I’ve tried and tried. No go.
Maybe it was my childhood made me wrong-thinking. One of the first sounds I remember was gunfire. It came from the British army camp just across the river from where we lived outside Omagh. The shouted commands, the crack of target practice, the uniformed soldiers heading in pairs down the town, talking to each other in their strange English accents - it was odd and slightly disturbing. They never spoke to me, I never spoke to them. It was - what’ll we say? - abnormal. Everyday and yet abnormal.
The camp where the soldiers were based is now gone but 5,000 British troops still have their base here. The abnormality persists. The direct-rule ministers are gone now but control from London, in key matters such as foreign policy and taxation, is still here. The abnormality persists. Militarily and politically, we in this part of Ireland are subjects of British rule. The abnormality persists. Or at least, that’s how it seems to me, but then I’m a wrong-thinker.
The way Alex and other right-thinking people see it, the coming visit by the head of the Saxe-Coburg family will be an outward sign that the centuries-old quarrel is over, our two countries now are friends. And yes, our relationship is now normal... No really, it is. You’d be wrong-thinking to believe otherwise.
Some people who sincerely want me to be right-thinking say, “Listen, you dunderhead, the queen visits Northern Ireland every turnaround and nobody gets excited. Why are you getting in a lather over a southern visit? There’s no difference.”
I’m sure they’re right. It’s just that in my wrong-thinking way, I have this idea that the south gained independence nearly one hundred years ago and can, unlike us, make choices about who visits and who doesn’t.
What about Gerry Adams, though? Is he a right-thinker? He says a visit to the south by the Commander-in-Chief of British Armed Forces would be “premature”. That leaves the door open for a visit at some later date. Maybe that makes him a potentially right-thinking person who at the moment is wrong-thinking.
Do y’know what I’ll do? I’ll re-read George Orwell’s 1984. It paints a fictional world where the authorities work on people’s minds. Through sustained propaganda they convince them that war is peace, evil is good and lies are truth. If I concentrate hard enough on these profound concepts, I might get inspired and start doing some right-thinking. At the moment, even though I’ve thought until my brain hurts, I can’t quite get my head round this cead-mile-failte-faith-now-to-be-sure-isn’t-it-great-we’re-all-normal notion.
There is a bright side. Still tingling from my success in parting my old chum Eoghan Harris from a sizeable sum in a bet about the south’s recent election, my eye for a business opportunity has grown sharp. So what about, come May, if I were to set up a stall outside Belfast Central Station? I could do a brisk business selling little union flags to all the right-thinking people from here, as they head south to greet Phil the Greek’s wife with shouts of “Hooray, Your Majesty! We’re all normal now! Honest!”