Posted By: August 30, 2014

Patrick Murphy. Irish News ( Belfast). Sathurday, August 30, 2014

DEAR Senator Gary Hart, 

Your fellow American, Richard Haass, left here disillusioned
and in despair. We think he over-complicated things, so we have written this simple
guide to help you understand politics and society here. We hope you find it useful.
So welcome to wherever you think you are. In this country, Catholics live in Ireland
and Protestants live in Britain. (The Alliance Party lives in a world of its own.)

Sorry about the weather. We have two seasons - winter and marching. Both last for 10

Political climate change has made the marching season stormier. It celebrates the
Battle of the Boyne, which is re-enacted every year in a sham fight at Scarva and
every day in a sham fight at Stormont.

Our politics are mainly about the border, which has been exposed to the weather for
nearly a century and is now in serious disrepair. Much of it is overgrown and large
sections are badly rusted.

But under the Good Friday Agreement, we are upgrading it to a new all-weather,
broadband, G4 border with floodlights and underground heating. By accelerating
particles along it, scientists have proved that diesel smugglers can travel faster
than light. (Don't ask. It would take too long to explain.)

We used to have cross-border bodies. They were called on-the-runs, but most of them
received letters telling them to stop running in the south and to run the north

As a result, our public services are running down.

Protestants who arrived on this island 400 years ago are British, but black people
who arrived a fortnight ago are Irish - except for the Royal Blacks, who are white.
(They are British because they are Protestant, not because they are white Blackmen.)
Orangemen are also white. They too are British - except for Orangemen in the south,
who are Irish (many of whom live in Donegal, which is our most northerly county. It
is in the south.)

The Troubles here ended when Sinn Féin moved from the Six British Occupied Counties
to The North. They have since migrated to Northern Ireland. Think of it as a sort of
linguistic Long March. (The British army is still here, but in a non-occupying role.
Troops have been specially trained not to occupy any space.

An entire regiment can now travel in a single armoured car - in the one seat.)

Our main sports are soccer and Gaelic football. In soccer, players are not allowed
to touch the ball with their hands. In Gaelic football they are not allowed to touch
it with their feet. It is run by the GAA, which promotes American football.

In terms of natural resources we have the world's largest deposits of history. We
mine them extensively.

Our main industries are history and golf.

Our government is based on powersharing, but since we may not have enough money for
street lighting, it will be replaced by sharing a lack of power. (Protestant and
Catholics will have equal opportunities to trip in the dark.) Darkness-sharing will
be administered by the first minister and deputy first minister. No light escapes
from their office, not even through Freedom of Information requests.

We only know it is there because, like a black hole in space, it distorts time and
space around it. Press officers polish the darkness to perfection before releasing
it. (No, they are not the dark side. You're thinking of the PSNI.)

The Stormont culture minister rarely goes to the theatre, the health minister does
not believe in science and the housing minister cannot count. (His assembly
committee believes that little of what he says adds up). The minister for finance
can count, but has nothing to count.

In education we abolished the 11-plus twice. So we replaced it with two new
11-pluses, one for Protestants and one for Catholics. (Children who can calculate
that it is now the 22-plus, automatically go to grammar school.) We are not sure how
it works, but we think that Protestant children are tested on their ability to find
the traditional route to the examination centre. Catholic children presumably hold
up protest placards as a spelling test.

The Parades Commission used to determine all marches, but we are replacing it with a
new Three Dimensional Commission, which will have the power to construct fly-overs
and tunnels. Marchers denied the right to go through an area can now apply to go
over it or under it.

We will probably use the new routes for international cycle races - or golf.

So enjoy your visit, but do not stay too long. If you do, you might finish up
writing reports like this one.