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Special guide sheds light on world of Irish politics

Good morning, tourists.

Thank you for visiting our wonderful country. Political information has not been included in your brochures, so here to help you understand us better is a special guided tour of Irish politics.

Ireland is an island to the west of Britain, but Northern Ireland is just off the mainland – not the Irish mainland, the British mainland.

(Look, if you wanted a region where politics are easier to understand, you should have gone to the Balkans. Now pay attention.)

The capital of Ireland is Dublin. It has a population of a million people, all of whom will be shopping in Newry this afternoon. They travel to Newry because it is in the North, which is not part of Ireland.

Under the Irish constitution, the North used to be ? but a successful 30-year campaign of violence for Irish unity ensured that it is now definitely in the UK. Had the campaign lasted longer the North might now be in France.

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland.

It has a population of half a million, half of whom have houses in Donegal. Donegal is in the north but not in the North. It is in the South. No, not the south, the South. (Those who cannot follow this might like to go off to the Giant’s Causeway instead. You cannot miss it – it is near a car park.)

There are two parliaments in Ireland. The Dublin parliament is called the Dáil, an Irish word meaning a place where banks receive taxpayers’ money.

The one in Belfast is called Stormont, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning placebo, or deliberately ineffective drug.

Their respective jurisdictions are defined by the border, an imaginary line on the map to show fuel launderers where to dump chemical waste. (Note for Americans tracing their ancestors – fuel launderers are descendants of one branch of the ancient Irish tribe known as Na Níteoirí [launderers]. They are found today mainly near the border. The other branch of the family, money launderers, are found all over Ireland. It was Na Níteoirí Ola who composed the ancient Irish air, “I love the smell of freshly laundered diesel in the morning.â€)

Protestants are in favour of the border, which generates millions of pounds in smuggling for Catholics, who are opposed to it.

(Note for Germans learning English – a cross-border body is an organisation, not a Sinn Féin minister who travels frequently between Belfast and Dublin. It should not be confused with a cross border-body which is a grumpy person in Strabane.)

Travel between the two states is complicated because Ireland is the only country in the world with two M1 motorways. The one in the North goes west to avoid the south and the one in the South goes north to avoid the price of drink.

We have two types of democracy in Ireland. Dublin democracy works by holding a referendum and then allowing the government to judge the result.

If the government thinks the result is wrong, the referendum is held again.

Twice in recent years the government decided the people’s choice was wrong and ordered a new referendum. (Note to visitors from North Korea – we told you that you would feel at home in Ireland.)

Belfast democracy works differently. It has a parliament with no opposition, so the government is always right. This system generates envy in many world capitals, especially Dublin.

Ireland has three economies – northern, southern and black. Only the black economy is in the black. The other two are in the red.

All IRAs claim to be the real IRA but only one of them is the Real IRA. The North’s biggest industry is the production of IRAs. We now have the Provisional, Continuity and Real IRAs.

The Real IRA is by far the most popular among young graffiti writers because it is the easiest to spell. (Literacy levels are improving. Department of Education inspectors report that every Catholic child at Key Stage 2 can now spell IRA.)

So now the rest of you want to go to the Giant’s Causeway as well? Fine, but before you go, did you know that the causeway was an attempt in the Tertiary geological period to build an interpretative centre but the developer ran out of political connections?

Oh dear, they appear to have gone – which shows that politicians may advocate tourism but the systems and society they have produced do little to encourage it.


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