Another country: Moving Hong Kong to Northern Ireland? Why not?


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In an alternative world, New Hong Kong would now be Northern Ireland’s largest city. As for the old Hong Kong, it would presumably be known simply as Shenzhen South.

Such are the joys of imagining how things might have turned out if some Whitehall correspondence from 1983 published yesterday by the National Archive had been a teeny bit more serious. As it is, we should console ourselves with the knowledge that civil servants not only have a sense of humour, but also were once actually allowed to express it.

Then again, perhaps the idea wasn’t that mad after all. Only 15 years after the tongue-in-cheek proposal by the academic Christie Davies to shift Hong Kong’s population to the Magilligan peninsula, the Good Friday Agreement was finally signed. Had five million immigrants appeared in Northern Ireland and set about building skyscrapers of epic proportions, the astonishment might have led to an earlier outbreak of peace, or at least stunned silence.

Among the other files released yesterday was one which showed concern among officials with regard to a visit to Britain by the Greek Culture Minister, Melina Mercouri, whose primary endeavour was to secure the return of the Elgin Marbles. Sadly there appears to be no record of any intervention by Professor Davies, who might have suggested a third solution: the relocation of both the Marbles and the Parthenon, to be united in a suitable central point. Graz in Austria happens to be equidistant and, as a renowned centre of culture, might have been the perfect place both to house a great wonder of the ancient world and settle an argument.

With Brits and Greeks satisfied by the compromise, and linked with Austria in a grand alliance, the future happiness of Europe would have been assured. Referendum anyone?