Less of the tribal talk

November 1, 2002

It is a sad state of affairs if, as Bob Osborne says, "most Protestants in Northern Ireland do not regard the two universities there as 'Irish'" (Letters, THES , October 25). What are they then? They are certainly not British.

Such tribal and narrow-minded thinking is sterile, and the academic community must rise above it.

That is not to say that we are paragons of tolerance or internationalism - Radovan Karadjic and Enoch Powell were noted academics - but we must overcome the common prejudices of our various tribal backgrounds as scholars and teachers in a multicultural world, as much for our own sakes as for society at large.

This applies as much to the "little Englanders" and the "little Irish", who campaign against the European Union, as to the "little Ulstermen" exemplified above.

Osborne also implies some sort of sinister "greens-under-the-bed" agenda behind north-south collaborations in Ireland.

Most people in the south have little desire for Irish unity under present circumstances. It would destabilise their newly found prosperity and still-fragile embrace of European multiculturalism.

One is only too mindful of the example of German reunification, where even a wealthy behemoth such as West Germany has been seriously set back following its precipitate merger with its economically and politically backward neighbour to the east.

So rest easy, Bob, the greens aren't coming to get you.

Denis J. Murphy
University of Glamorgan

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