In the shoes of others

Life and politics in Northern Ireland is more complex than its understood by outsiders

- Well I'm Irish from Belfast, so maybe there can be quite negative connotations of violence and trouble associated with that. I'd say Irish people are fairly well received across the world, but in the UK I feel some people would think we in the North are quite backwards or engaged in tribal politics and conflict. Otherwise, I think the UK are mostly uninterested or uninformed on Northern Ireland and see it as a bit of a burden.

Life and politics in Northern Ireland is more complex than its understood by outsiders. It takes more than a 2 seconds Google search to understand world issues which recently I've seen being reduced down to a few slides on Instagram posts. I'm all for activism and I appreciate people trying to educate others but these things are never black and white and social media posts don't do justice to the intricacies of these things.

I think most people here are tired of the constant green and orange politics and policy stagnation, or threats to collapse the government or whatever, and want to progress and get on with more important issues.. like we have awful statistics when it comes to things like mental health and suicide. But it is still a segregated place like people live in different areas, play different sports, go to different schools etc. Like I didn't really make any friends from the other community till I was in my late teens out at bars and clubs, so my whole upbringing was in my own Irish Catholic bubble.

So really what I want people to understand is that Belfast is a class place with good people... and although there has been recent trouble on the news of burning buses and riots and all, it was a relatively rare surge of trouble and if anything seemed to be a wider repercussion of British government actions and Brexit more so than our own internal politics directly. So people should try to learn a bit of our history and come over and see what it's like!

- You mentioned violence and segregation, do you think they are linked somehow? What do you think is the origin of these?

- I have no doubt violence and segregation are linked. If you keep one community apart from another on the basis that they are different, that'll become the main source of their frustration and they'll have an "us" v.s. "them" mentality... but then again maybe segregation is needed to prevent violence? It's like a vicious circle.

As the saying goes "divide and conquer". The two main parties in NI exist to stop the other from achieving its main goal, a United Ireland or United Kingdom. So having these two opposing ideologies and by garnering support off them, its in their interest to have two groups of people segregated and against each other. It keeps their party in power, this is why we see politicians stirring up tensions, like the recent riots I mentioned... it happens all over the world.

- I've seen a lot of questioning around the independence of Scotland, how do you feel about Northen Ireland independence? Do you think that would solve certain issues, create new ones?

- Well one of the first issues it would solve would be NI's messy withdrawal from the EU and all the customs and border complications that come with Brexit, especially when majority of NI voted remain. It's a difficult question... a United Ireland would definitely create new logistical problems and more than likely spark some level of violence.

I think a United Ireland would work best under a sort of two state federal government, where both the Dáil and Stormont would remain intact, not as completely separate entities but with close cooperation. I don't know exactly how it would work constitutionally but it means it could be tailored to the people of the different counties and would be more culturally sensitive and representative of the unionist community in the north. These type of safeguards would be needed so that Unionists could feel safe and welcome in a United Ireland.

- How do you think that would affect how people in UK feel about Irish people?

- Honestly I feel that majority of people in the UK would be indifferent to Northern Ireland leaving the Union, but I'm only really forming that opinion on the basis of my British mates and what I see as insincerity from the British government in what they say and do when it comes to NI. There's probably a public opinion poll on it somewhere.

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