Northern Ireland is, to many, the weird younger brother of the United Kingdom. They have odd, niche interests (although their flag collection is admittedly impressive), they can get a little clingy (we can’t forget the two years of Brexit negotiations) and they frequently embarrass you in front of your friends. Nonetheless, your mum insists you let them hang out with you.
However, as concerns are raised about the export of vaccines from the EU to Northern Ireland and the post-Brexit border is brought into question, we consider what the rest of the UK might lose if Northern Ireland is forced to stay home.
Admittedly, the food industry may not take a big hit. Concerns have been raised about the provision of potatoes to England, but most college dinners in Durham are sufficiently supplied to survive on their own. Wheaten bread has not yet proved successful(ly) in English homes, but the decline of sourdough in Lockdown 3.0 may afford the delicacy a new chance. Likewise, the Full English Breakfast knows nothing of the superior Ulster Fry, and Great Britain faces a bleak future if they never have the chance to be introduced.
Concerns about inflation may also arise; without a frequent reduction of every object, person or abstract notion to a ‘wee’ thing, everyday items may increase in size exponentially.
Studies suggest sales of the Union Jack would drop significantly, with 50% of Northern Ireland’s residents providing 94% of the UK’s flag sales. Pictures of the Queen, flutes and wooden crates may also face severe drops in popularity.
In these trying times, Northern Ireland brings to the UK a sense of community. Perhaps ironically, given its troubled past, anyone who has witnessed two Northern Irish students meeting knows that the country is a beacon of unity; there are not two Northern Irish people in Durham that don’t have a mutual friend of a friend, didn’t go to school with the other’s cousin, or are not indeed related.
On the other hand, the perennial tensions in Northern Irish politics serve to make the other UK governments look relatively pleasant and productive. Despite the many failings of Westminster, Cardiff and Edinburgh politicians, residents of the mainland can at least be thankful to have a functioning government at all.
On the other hand, mainland residents may benefit from losing the perennial sense of confusion about who they are as a nation – is it Great Britain? The United Kingdom? The British Isles? Admittedly, for most this wouldn’t make a difference – what is Northern Ireland anyway? – but for the few that acknowledge its existence, some clarity would undoubtedly be welcome.
The entertainment industry may suffer considerably – the loss of Derry Girls, Jamie Dornan, Liam Neeson’s dulcet tones, the Game of Thrones sets, and the true meaning of the song Sweet Caroline may prove too much. What would Great Britain be without four-fifths of Snow Patrol, that guy from Merlin, and Courteney Cox’s potential second home?
In sum, the United Kingdom shouldn’t be too quick to drop their weird younger brother. Their culture may remain odd, distant and mildly concerning but, if nothing else, they may yet prove useful in their indelible friendship with the more cool, rebellious and popular Republic of Ireland.
Featured image by David Stanley on Flickr.