If you happened to have been driving around the Republic of Ireland in the days after the country’s elimination from soccer’s European Championship you would have noted an unusual level of nationalism on display. From stone houses in rural Kerry, to the main street of Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, to whole residential estates in Dublin, green, white, and orange flags and bunting dominated the scene.
Nowadays, the only indication that you have crossed the border into Northern Ireland is a sign informing you that speed limits are now posted in miles, not kilometers. As a result, the difference between the two places creeps up on you. As you drive the four hours from Derry to Dublin certain details–shop signs and house styles, types of municipal ornamentation, the sudden proliferation of garden hedges–tell you that you are in an English kind of Ireland.
Eventually, the road leads through a string of small towns. On this particular visit, leftover Union Jacks and royal portrait banners from the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations lined the largely empty streets. The impression was of a very Twenty First Century Northern Irish nationalism, one strangely coincident with the patriotic sporting pride on display south of the border.
It’s not an observation I would make to a stranger in a pub, so I’m ambivalent about sharing it here. But as I made that drive it crossed my mind that if nothing else, these partitioned populations share one thing in common: a tendency to leave their decorations up too long.