Monday, 25 July 2005

On being a colony

[Warning: this is a bit of a rant...]

Being partisanly nationalistic or unionistic would always be the last thing on my mind, but I just wish that since this part of the world which is currently designated Nothern Ireland is designated Northern Ireland and our national identity is in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, that that should actually be the case.

Now I don't mind either way, as I say - we live seeking the peace of the country, praying for the powers that be, and seeking the glory of Christ and the propagation of his Kingdom above all: and if (or, taking into account demography, when) this part becomes part of the Republic, we'll keep doing that and have great new opportunities to do so. This gripe isn't a sectarian one.

And I appreciate that Norn Iron was a compromise. But the compromise seems to be that we're neither in the UK nor in the Republic... Let me illustrate.

I apply for a provisional driving license in England - well I would, living in Nottingham. I don't have time to learn to drive there, so on returning to Belfast for the summer I apply to sit my theory test (too late to catch summer bookings for practicals). Problem: DVLA doesn't cover NI: that'd be DVLANI. OK, so I apply to DVLANI. Problem: they can't process my application (the website chokes and splutters) - oh it's all ok, emails assure me, but I need to ring them, and they need to ring DVLA to confirm my license is valid (eh? it's a UK license! oh no, it's not - it's a GB license. Ah. Of course). And then they need me to book over the phone, cos they've had to override the system - using a GB license in NI is evidently Strange. Well, that all went ok, and I passed the Theory Test (the hazard perception part of which was interesting, seeing as I haven't taken lessons & refused to spend such an amount of money on the DVD - but I divert). Of course the interesting thing will be when I inform them of change of address: presumably then they'll require me to change to a NI provisional license, ie pay again...

Then I visit the dentist. A friendly and good practice, with which, very helpfully, my Mum has booked me an appointment to register and have a check-up. So I walk there, prepared with my NHS card. But oh no. Problem. Is it that I haven't got round to changing the address on it yet? No, it's that it's an English NHS card. For NI, of course, I need a NI NHS card. (No, the problem is not simply that I haven't yet registered with a GP in Belfast - it's actually an English NHS number.) Now hang on, what does the N in NHS stand for?? The receptionist, from England herself, kindly allows me to have the check-up and urges me to apply for a new (NI) one ASAP. So the dentist can be paid for my treatment. By the 'N'HS.

Turns out that the Coventry Bank Branch Manager who insisted on ringing a superior to check my word that I wasn't an International student (she had my British passport in front of her), wasn't as much of an idiot as I thought at the time.

So. The last great remnant of the Empire? Just step across the Irish Sea. Watch out though: you're entering no-man's-land - in the State of the UK, but not a country of it; British, but not in Britain; where the Banks have permission to print money which is not Legal Tender. Was this part of the world invented for a compromise or for a laugh?

Whatever was going on, it's just as well God in grace gave people from these parts the ability to laugh at everything.


postliberal said...

Perhaps when they get power sharing going again, things will gradually filter toiwards sanity.

Having said that, I can see no way through the tension other than to make NI effectively an independent country of its own - anything else and you'd have 'winners' & 'losers'.

étrangère said...

Thanks for the comment PL. I don't actually think powersharing helps with the whole 'not being in the same system' thing - it's another form of devolution, so still different laws for NI (see how it's developing in Scotland). Though that can be good in some areas. Oh and neither side in Norn Iron would be happy with becoming an independent state - it'd only solve the problem for both governments wanting shot of it!

postliberal said...

Neither side would be happy, but at least they'd be both equal in that! As an outsider, I shall be wary of treading in here. But it seems to me that there's going to be dissatisfaction with beign fully part of one country or the other. Though time can do amazing things for helping people see where best to take themselves...

You're right that things are complex with any state of semi-autonomy and devolved power. But that's inevitable, perhaps, with a part of these islands that's got an interesting relationship with England. In fact, you seem to be very sensible in general - keep up the good writing.