The Northen Ireland Troubles, 8

I have already told the story of not being able to buy black market eggs because, with an English accent, I was thought to be the ‘Ministry Man’. An accentless, or near accentless speech was, in my experience generally the trigger for suspicion. I remember when I first joined the City Council and English reps came to the counter at our office, I was always sent to attend, with the postscript, ‘You talk to them, you speak their language.’ In other words, one might be with the Irish, but, with friends and relations excepted, no matter how long one has lived here, one is with the Irish, but not of them.
This was best illustrated during a political discussion, which had broken out in my office among the younger elements. I generally stayed clear of politics but on that occasion, because I felt things might get a bit heated, I put my oar in.
One of the young men, a more vociferous, belligerent and forthright participant, and one who had only just joined us and did not know me very well, listened to what I had to say for a few seconds and then interrupted.
‘What do you know about the Irish situation, you’re English.’ For a moment there was what is called, in novels, a pregnant silence, the others, like me, were taken aback with the virulence of the attack.
“How old would you say you were when you became politically aware?’ I asked. He thought for a second and then said twelve was about right. I was sceptical, but any figure would have done.
‘Right,’ I said. ‘That means you have been politically aware for twelve years, but you reckon you have a good grasp of Irish politics.’ I did not wait for his reply but ploughed on. I did notice a gleam of amusement in some of the eyes of the others present, they could see where I was leading.
I continued, ‘I have lived here as an adult for thirty-four years.’
I had made my point and although it was seen to be reasonable to some of those present, I am equally sure there were others, including the young man, front and centre, who instinctively believed that Irish politics came down through the generations, in their genes.

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