Today it is reported that the Northern Ireland Office has removed pictures of the Queen hanging on the walls and paid £10k compensation to a nationalist civil servant who was offended by having to pass by them in the course of his work. Have we gone entirely bonkers ? Have we lost every shred of dignity about what being British means ? Are we so far up our own politically correct orifices that we give a payout to someone who would see us blown up and then meekly take down pictures of our Head of State because he is offended ? Give me strength ! In fact, lay me down in a dark room to rationalise how we, the British State, can pander to the whims of anyone who would have us harmed and damaged by paying them and then removing that which allegedly causes his offence. We have gone stark raving mad. The last time I looked, the NI Office was a part of the British civil service - though nowadays that certainly doesn't exemplify the impartiality and dignity of the office - and as such its employees are subject to the ways and means of the British Crown. If this 'nationalist' is offended (why was he ever employed in the first place ?) then he knows where the front door is. Go where your sentiments lean, but don't ever assume that the rest of Britain wouldn't give you a good kick on your way first. And as for the civil servants who sanctioned this travesty of decent behaviour they should be identified, fined and thrown out on their ear. No wonder there's been no assembly for God knows how long in NI if people with these character traits are in charge.
The broader picture of NI and Brexit poses equally Draconian measures emerging. The backstop is anathema to the UK and is said to be the principal reason for the discord with the EU. Whether that's strictly true or not we shall likely never know but if, by default, we end up with a 'no deal' then the likelihood of direct rule from Westminster for NI becomes more probable and by definition, more problematic. Nobody can pretend the NI situation is easy to comprehend - it differs so markedly from the political and social landscape of the rest of the UK - but there is one fundamental fact of life that currently exists: that NI is a constitutional and sovereign component part of the United Kingdom. That is unequivocal fact. In the future that may change, or not, but in the meantime it is governed - up until 2017 at least - by a devolved assembly that functions under the umbrella of British constitutional governance. That also is, or was, unequivocal fact. Now without a functioning assembly, NI is in practise being run by civil servants. It's a tough role to play for it involves such deeply rooted sentiments and acrimony that treading the pathway of neutrality between the factions is unquestionably difficult. Yet we expect our civil servants to adopt such political neutrality and act in the best interests of the Union whilst simultaneously taking account of the political and social views of those who would have NI removed from the UK's grasp.
That position of neutrality can seldom be achieved between factions that are so far apart in their thinking, which prompts the thought of whether the Union as it now stands has reached the end of its natural existence. NI remains as difficult a constitutional issue as ever, Scotland is campaigning openly to bring about a second independence referendum in its desire not to be taken out of the EU under the British flag. Should we therefore question whether the Union is serving the people it was intended to serve or not; is it actually achieving its mandate ? - for if it is not then is the UK a manifestation of something that has become historically defunct ? These are questions to be asked, not because there is a groundswell of popular belief that the Union should be dissolved - far from it - but if we have continually failed as a Union to hold the support and empathy of its members then we might wish to consider what its purpose is. The extreme might consider it tyranny, the more moderate might say the collective outweighs the sum of its individual parts whilst the thoughtful might come to the conclusion that as the desire for political reform in our nation state grows as an imperative then we might have to concurrently consider whether reforming the Union needs to go hand in hand with that.