In Belfast the Virus Challenges Political Allegiances


I recently received an email from a friend in Mainland Europe. She was pleased to hear Ireland had moved out of Lockdown. Once again, I had to explain that I’m not actually Irish. “It’s complicated,” I wrote, this being Northern Irish shorthand for “sit down, it might take some time to explain this.” Though Belfast, where I’ve lived for twenty years, is in Northern Ireland, which is on the island of Ireland joined by a, currently negligible, border to the Republic of Ireland; though I hold an Irish passport, albeit alongside a significantly more battered British one; though my publisher is Irish and yes, now you mention it, my last novel did win the EU Prize for Literature for Ireland, technically I’m not Irish. Or am I? In Belfast it depends who you ask and which particular day you’re asking on. 

During the Covid-19 crisis many Northern Irish people wished they were Irish. This is a bold claim from someone who resides in East Belfast, a predominantly Protestant, historically…



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