Time to go


There are many reasons you might think Karen Bradley should resign, but the Derry Girls may not be the first one that comes to mind.

You may already know this, but Derry Girls is a comedy television series set in the 1990s. It is in its second series, and it is not hard to see why it works. It is well written and manages to present a comedic view of an awful time in Derry’s terrible history, from the view of some innocent, and some not-so-innocent, schoolgirls.

It is black, gallows humour, but it is all in good fun, despite the number of silly jokes that would have been considered inappropriately sectarian in the past.

In the past. People have moved on. But not the Tories, not the NIO, and and definitely not Karen Bradley, who spent this week trying to indemnify the murders of Irish people by the British state.

The statement she made to MPs on Wednesday are of the kind made at private luncheons and dinners by those that were regularly sent over to Ireland to direct the killing. The words could as easily have come from General Tuzo or Kitson or Jackson, or from Ted Heath or Margaret Thatcher themselves. In the context of Britain’s Dirty War, and their propaganda war, she delivered the kind of guarantee that would have been intended to boost the mercenary killers as they set about the slaughter of innocents.

The people of Ireland, North or South, Protestant or Catholic, have every right to be in a blind, burning rage over her statement, because it applies to all of us equally, regardless of creed or political persuasion. They are colonial in nature. They put all Irish people on a lower level of humanity to the British.

The British government has always viewed this island as a colony, inhabited by the equivalent of Hutus and Tutsis, warring natives who can be set against each other for England’s own advantage.

Despite this, what we have seen for the past 25 years is people in the north of Ireland trying to make peace with each other. And what we see very clearly this week is that they have been doing this in the absence of any understanding or concern by the British government.

But we are still here, and we are still trying to move on. Just like the Derry girls, we can laugh at the crazy misconceptions which Catholics had for Protestants and vice versa, the half-baked ideas about each others’ taste in music or our imagined customs.

The truth of the situation, as republicans have always said, is that we are no different from each other than the people of Ballybofey are from those in Stranorlar, or the folk of Norwich are from those in Ipswich. Barely enough to inspire an energetic game of football.

And the fact that people can laugh about these imagined differences, now, is testimony to the efforts of those pacifists who believed that peace by itself could be the solution to the conflict here.

But into this just enterprise, we see once again a British government which appears hell-bent on conflict. Not just with such statements, which seek to justify the heinous massacres of their past, but also future killings; and not just with their callous disregard of the peace process; but now, more clearly than ever, their plan to reimpose their border, which has always been the primary source of conflict in Ireland, and retains the potential to reignite it.

It might be tempting to believe the Tories are just flailing towards disaster because of some ineptitude or misunderstanding or short-sightedness. Karen Bradley, in her own defence, has tried to present herself as some sort of political Bridget Jones, a female Boris Johnson whose incompetence is meant to be proof of her blue-blooded sincerity.

But there was nothing accidental about her statement. Her message, and the Brexit agenda which the Tories are implementing, are the direct result of a singular need to stay in power through the support of the DUP and the most xenophobic elements of their own party.

It is not right that the people of Ireland must pick up the pieces of a conflict imposed on us, only to have them kicked away by the short-termism of a bloodthirsty Tory regime which has zero mandate here.

Unless someone shouts stop, the victims of such a trajectory will be Catholics and Protestants alike, and perhaps another generation of British soldiers of the kind Bradley thought she was defending.

Set against the thousands of lives lost, regardless of how you calculate the victims or the combatants, it is something that should not be tolerated for a day by any of us, regardless of our politics.

And that is why Catholics and Protestants, Derry girls and Ballymena boys, should unite in making sure Karen Bradley and her kind do not get the chance to wreck our future once again.

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