We are long familiar with the “Irish Question” though there are times, and there have been many of us in those times, who are not quite sure what the question is.
At one level it would appear that it is a question that has been posed from a point to Ireland’s east, London most often.
The “Irish Question” has haunted British political life for generations, indeed centuries.
What to do about Ireland and the Irish was the more extended version of the two word primer.
The Irish, meanwhile, often wondered why they were somehow a question rather than simply a fact.
From time to time, as the years rolled by, they would attempt to answer the question by rebelling.
That, more often than not, merely resulted in the question being asked in London more often and more loudly.
The Irish Question has come into view again of late, or at least the “Irish border” variation of it has.
The “Irish border” has been cropping up in the multitudes of Brexit stories being carried by the world’s media.
The term would appear to imply a form of ownership. The border is somehow owned by the “Irish,” ergo a new lease of life for that old “Irish Question.”
But is it an “Irish border” per se? Is it not the “Irish/British border,” or indeed, as some might argue, the “British border” plonked across the island of Ireland.
Language is important. Terminology is often decisive in forming public opinion, locally or globally.
The way that some hard core British Brexiteers would have it, the “Irish border” and its companion, the “border backstop,” is somehow the fly in the ointment mucking up the process of marching unhindered into a blissful, post-EU, nirvana.
Oh those beastly Irish again!
But of course we have moved on from the old “Irish Question” days.
But try telling that to some who lurk in the darker recesses of antediluvian pro-Brexit Ulster unionism, or its bigger cousin, pro-Brexit British conservatism.
Never mind. We are now indeed moving into a different time. Think “fog in the Irish Sea, Britain cut off.”
Where once we had the “Irish Question,” now we are faced with the “British Question.”
And this new question involves far more than just two islands.
And to add to the confusion there is lately the “American Question.”
London is a political shambles. Washington, D.C. a political disaster.
It was to these two entities that the Irish traditionally looked to when times grew hard and uncertain.
They looked to the former more in hope than expectation. They looked to the latter with both hope and expectation.
So who to look to now? Berlin, Paris, Pyongyang?
Ottawa perhaps? The Canadians seem like a sensible lot.
So many questions and, with looming Brexit posing so many of them, so little time.