Every time I leave the country and am asked where I’m from, the reply of ‘Belfast’ is met with a slightly wary look and a carefully worded “How are things there now?” or words to that effect. And to that question, what reply am I supposed to give? Each time I brush over the subject quickly and say things are fine, because I have learnt through time that this is the thing to do and like everyone else from here, I don’t want people to believe we are all about bombs and rioting and “The Troubles.” Because we aren’t. Even “The Troubles” is such a lightly worded umbrella term for everything terrible that has come to pass in our short history. It signifies to me, how the country is trying to move on.
“Are you patriotic? What does it mean to you be patriotic?”
Reading over these questions, I was slightly stunned to realise the complete lack of ‘patriotism’ myself and basically everyone else I know, has about this country. Coming from Northern Ireland, patriotism isn’t a word associated often with ‘our wee country’ as its often been called, somewhat sickeningly and often in a thick Belfast brogue. I think we have been more than accustomed to believing that everyone who does not come from Northern Ireland associates us with riots, petrol bombs and police. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to even bring up Northern Ireland without hinting at or mentioning at least one of those key words. I find that more than a bit depressing and sort of think that this is the main reason there is an astounding lack of overt ‘patriotism’ ..at least for myself anyway.
I don’t want to deliver some kind of mawkish reversal and try to enlighten whoever reads this that we aren’t about riots and bombs and police etc etc. That has been done time and time again. It is impossible to completely reverse what society or the majority think. I have written this simply to explore the issue of ‘patriotism’ within Northern Ireland. After much contemplation I have come to the conclusion that we have an odd, understated, pride and patriotism, but it is there nonetheless. We will complain about this country day in and day out but the minute someone who is not from here begins to complain about the country, we will defend it like crazy and I’ve noticed this too many times. I think that there is a hidden affection for the country that is only shown when threatened. A bit like a younger brother or sister. You’re allowed to make fun of them but the moment someone else does so, there is absolute hell to pay. And I think that’s a quite nice kind of patriotism to have. Even if it is a bit of a strange one.