When I was in my teens, Jason Donovan was the fashionable heartthrob for most of the girls of the time. Due to his status, he was often asked on to children’s TV programmes to discuss his career and opine about the pressing current affairs of the day. Roughly around the time of the Reagan/Gorbachev Moscow Summit in the Spring of ’88, Donovan was interviewed on the BBC where he was questioned as to how he would achieve world peace. ‘By getting rid of all the weapons’, he cringeworthily responded. Thanks, Jason! No one ever thought of that before.
Of course back then in more sensible times, we could mock celebrities when they gave opinions on political matters. Today, in this celebrity-crazed age, there are those who hang on to every word ever uttered by those who frequent our television schedules. Furthermore, when we’re facing an enemy (and I don’t think ‘enemy’ is too strong a word) determined to undermine Brexit, we need to take everything they say and challenge them rigorously on their falsehoods.
This morning it’s the turn of Northern Irish comedian Patrick Kielty. I must begin by saying I fully acknowledge the pain Kielty went through as a child seeing his father savagely murdered by loyalist terrorists. On the other hand that doesn’t give him a status where any utterance he makes on the situation of Northern Ireland in the Brexit process is considered holy writ. When Kielty responded to the Brexit plan forwarded by Boris Johnson, it wasn’t an ‘absolute schooling’. Nor was it an ‘epic takedown’, ‘slam dunk’, ‘hole in one’ or any other praiseworthy epithets. I’ll give it to you straight: What Kielty said was platinum-plated bollocks served on a silver salver of gullibility. The gullible being the audience of determined Remainers who, in all likelihood, had never even heard of Northern Ireland before they decided to weaponise it for their own anti-democratic ends.
My advantage is that I DO know Northern Ireland. I know it very well. I’ve been to places in all six counties and 11 council districts. In truth, I probably know it in its entirety better than Kielty does. Thus, I’ll happily respond to each and every rebuke he gave to Boris the other day. Here goes:
1). The argument that the Belfast Agreement ‘removed the border’ is ridiculous. The border is still very much there. And, contrary to what you hear in Great Britain, you’d have to have the IQ of a gnat not to realise you’d crossed it. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is already a customs, currency, VAT, legal and immigration border. On approach you see shops offering currency exchanges in large letters. Having crossed it you notice changes to painted road markings, the measurement of distances (the Republic uses kilometres) and road signs. On the A1 south of Newry, you can’t help but notice signs for the large HMRC Customs and Excise facility. There are cameras at every crossing point, which record the number plates of HGV’s as the UK now levies a charge on all such vehicles from outside the country. Venture a few miles into the Republic en route to Dublin, and you’re likely to be stopped by a Garda checkpoint. I have been stopped on two occasions to have my hire car checked for contraband and any illegal passengers.
2). Did the Belfast Agreement give nationalists the feeling their ‘day-to-day lives were essentially Irish’? If so, why do so many of them check their morality in at the polling booth door and endorse a party (Sinn Fein) dedicated not only to getting rid of the border altogether, but one content to praise the past actions of terrorists as a means of achieving this end? Is Kielty suggesting nationalists were tricked by the Belfast Agreement. If they were, it doesn’t say much for their collective intelligence.
3). As someone who spent time in Northern Ireland working and canvassing in the run up to the referendum in 1998, I can state categorically the topic of the EU was never mentioned in rallies pro and anti the Agreement. It is barely mentioned in the text of the Agreement itself. The EU wasn’t involved in the negotiations and does nothing to underpin the legalities of the Agreement today. The UK Supreme Court has already adjudicated on this matter and come to the same conclusion. I think they know more about UK constitutional law than Kielty does.
4). Everyone who uses the spectre of a return to violence to undermine the argument for Brexit is basically saying the whims of Northern Irish terrorists should be used as the basis for determining UK foreign policy. If peace in Northern Ireland is under threat, it is under threat from terrorists (and to think we were told the Belfast Agreement would ‘take the gun out of Irish politics’), not under threat from Brexit. To allow terrorists to dictate UK policy on Brexit or anything else two decades on from a process spun on the basis it would bring peace is contemptible! Then again, ‘contemptible’ is perhaps the mildest of phrases I’d use to describe folk like Andrew Adonis, Alistair Campbell and Chuka Umunna.
5). Oh, and there’s nothing ‘inevitable’ about a Border Poll. Outside loaded polls with complex questions the majority for the Union (including the 109,000 Catholics who identified as ‘British’ at the last Census in 2011) is still very much there.
Sorry, Patrick. Your riposte is patronising and vacuous. The only people likely to be impressed by it are those who’ve never set foot in Ulster, and who put #FBPE hastags on their Twitter rants.