Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Irish Backstop, and Common Sense - by JD

All of those who are arguing over where to 'draw the line' of the so-called Irish Backstop (whatever that means) should be compelled to read and re-read Spike Milligan's novel Puckoon. I say read and re-read until it enters their thick heads that the whole idea is an absurd bureaucratic fantasy!

The trailer to the film version of Puckoon contains the immortal line - "the only way to fight the stupidity of bureaucracy is with......stupidity!"


This excerpt from the book illustrate perfectly the stupidity and lack of common sense inside the bureaucratic mind:-


"When an attempt is made to bury one of the locals across the border in what had now become “British territory”, Barrington, the customs officer in charge of the Border Customs Post, has a few preconditions:

‘I presume the deceased will be staying this side permanently?’ ‘Unless someone invents a remarkable drug – yes,’ answered the priest. ‘Then,’ went on Barrington, ‘he will require the following: an Irish passport stamped with a visa, to be renewed annually for the rest of his – ‘ Barrington almost said ‘life’ – ‘stay’, he concluded.

Well, that was that. While the deceased is off having his passport photo taken it’s decided that all corpses on the Unionist side of the border be exhumed, repatriated and reinterred on Irish soil."


The events in Puckoon take place over a few weeks in 1924 when the Boundary Commission has just about agreed on where the border between Northern and Southern Ireland will lie. The only thing that stands between them and getting to the pub before closing time is “the microcephalic community of Puckoon” a fictitious village which Spike locates “[s]everal and a half metric miles North East of Sligo. When an accident destroys the surveyor’s equipment they decide to get the matter over with by all putting “one hand on the red pencil and draw[ing] a line that falls naturally and peacefully into place:”

In what was meant to be a solemn moment, all hands held the pencil and pulled slowly across the map. All was silent, the room filled with suspicion. Occasionally a gasp rent the silence as they all strained for the advantage.

‘Steady, someone’s pulling to the benefits of Ulster.’

‘Lies, all lies.’

‘Who gave that jerk?’

‘Ah! I felt that.’


Finally the pencil reached its destination. Faces broke into relieved smiles and a series of rapid unplanned handshakes ensued.


Unfortunately the border cuts right through the heart of Puckoon separating houses from outhouses, the church from its graveyard and annexing a corner of the pub where the locals crowd because the drink is thirty percent cheaper there.

Yes, I know it sounds absurd but it does happen in real life. The partition of India and Pakistan was an arbitrary line on the map which no doubt pleased those who had drawn it but the consequences were unknown numbers who died in the resulting chaos and fighting as Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs suddenly found themselves on the 'wrong' side of the new border and were obliged to uproot themselves and try to move to the 'right' side.

The madness of bureaucratic systems and yet the politicians and civil servants remain oblivious to the problems they create!

And to answer the question what is 'common sense'?



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