Pretty much most of what goes wrong in the world is due to a lack of communication, even the worst of enemies could probably persuaded to at least not kill each other if you could sit them around a pub table with a pint, or if they’re not pint drinkers, sit them around a cafe table with a cup of tea.
I lived in Northern Ireland from 1983 until 1999, stupidity and innocence led me into contact with all sorts of people that friends would have told me that I would probably have been better not to meet. Loyalists and Republicans looked pretty much alike to me, the Republicans tended to be more serious and organized, and the Loyalists I met laughed more and were less organized; which went completely against the traditional image of Catholics as cheerful and happy-go-lucky and Protestants as dour and focused.
If it had been possible for the leaders on both sides to sit down and laugh together in 1969, the history of this island might have been different.
An old clergyman I knew in Co. Down used to say, ‘Ian, you don’t make friends with people by poking them in the eye’.
For four decades, or eight decades or eight centuries, (pick your time period according to your view of Irish history), we have poked each other in the eye. We have shouted at each other and demonised each other. Ian Paisley’s meeting with Archbishop Sean Brady earlier this week was perhaps a first sign that it is possible to sit down and communicate.
Fingers in the eye hurt; a pint, or a cup of tea seem much more sensible.