HAS Covid-19 shown us that the very idea of Northern Ireland is ridiculous?
After all the tortured history of this island has it taken a global pandemic to show us what so many years of bloodshed couldn’t? Ireland should be one entity. Nothing else makes sense.
Now this is not because of some misty eyed romantic nationalism.
This is not because of some loyalty to a blood soaked past.
I don’t understand the notion that because some people died for a cause that we are in perpetuity bound to a future built solely on that.
We can fully respect and honour and acknowledge our past without being slaves to it.
Irish Republicanism has for far too long veered towards being a cult of death.
Some deaths, that is. Not others.
A united Ireland along those lines is one built on far too many corpses and broken lives to maintain any semblance of nobility.
A just, fair, decent and humane Ireland has long been more important than a United one.
All those old songs can still bring a beery tear out of any of us but they are not worth someone else getting a bullet.
Nor is this because we can conveniently turn a blind eye to the British identity of around a million people in the north of Ireland.
I’ve never fully understood what plan a United Ireland by bloodshed had for this part of our population.
I’m not sure your allegiance to a State could be expected if you’ve been brought into it by men with guns.
Nor is it because I share the strange admiration for Northern Unionism that so many do here and that seems based on a class distaste for Northern nationalists and their supporters.
Ireland’s biggest selling newspaper The Sunday Independent has an array of columnists who seem obsessed by the superior quality of Unionists.
Eoghan Harris and Ruth Dudley Edwards in particular display their admiration of those fine Northern Protestants alongside their almost visceral dislike for the tracksuit wearing followers of Sinn Fein.
In this view of our island there are sensible, sober, upstanding folk and there are lager-swilling louts and though we do not share a religion we do share snobbery and that is so much more important.
This is not even a response to the awfulness of Brexit and the little Englanders driving it.
It is not a solution to the Brexit knots of the border.
It is not about the EU and those over-educated, under-intelligent, English public schoolboys waving their Union Jacks at it.
It is not about England at all. Which is a refreshing thing for Ireland anyway.
No this is the idea of Ireland as one place that is, if you like, a plague on all those houses. Republicanism and Loyalism, Nationalism and Unionism. Little Englanders. They have nothing to do with this and, my God, what fresh air it would bring if we could consign them all to the past.
This is an Ireland that simply acknowledges the reality that Covid-19 has so forcefully brought home. That is that when we try to pretend that this small island is two places, is not the one space, we make fools of ourselves.
The virus, obviously, recognises no borders. The pandemic has no concern for countries.
Our lungs do not cope better or worse with this illness if we are in Monaghan or Armagh.
The virus does not behave any differently in Waterford than it does in Antrim.
This is one landmass. One island. These aren’t political assertions. They are simply geographical facts.
The first case of Covid-19 on this island was someone who landed in Dublin Airport and then travelled home to the North.
The virus did not wait until she crossed the border before being the virus.
Is Covid-19 going to change us all in the long run?
Will it remain in our consciousness long after it has gone?
Will there be a new normal?
We don’t know. But what if, those old tired voices of Loyalism and Republicanism, those voices of barely concealed hate, those worn out words of Nationalism and Unionism, fell away.
What if we all just looked around us and realised. This is one place. This is one small island.
This is one geographical country surrounded by the sea.
Who are we kidding?