It’s no wonder that Eoghan Quigg has incurred the wrath of the Continuity IRA.
No doubt the Real and the 32-County and the Honest It’s Us This Time IRA will also be following suit in hounding this schoolboy as he seeks his fortune as a popstar.
Because not only does Eoghan represent the future of Northern Ireland, he actually represents its present.
Very visibly. Very famously. And very well.
By taking The X Factor’s Song For Heroes, with all its associations and resonances, in his youthful stride, he has come to epitomise the very best of what our young people have to offer.
No one can doubt Eoghan Quigg’s background, his cultural influences, his broad allegiances, if you like. Or those of his family.
The point is, that’s not the point.
The days when it was impossible to cross the cultural or political divide are over.
Young people here are doing that day and daily, socially, through the internet and through sharing all the things that they have in common. It’s that which the so-called dissidents can’t stand. The biggest target they have in their sights is a 15-year-old boy.
Not for the first time, of course. At least Eoghan Quigg isn’t being shot at, beaten with sticks, having his kneecaps removed or being forced out of his home by the heroes of the revolution.
But he has been able, and in a way which is brave, to treat those who hate him with disdain. Because it still requires bravery to face these thugs down. It doesn’t take many people to drive you out of your home or to make you afraid for your life. Maybe only one or two.
But there are still whole communities here living under the terror of a handful of overblown paramilitary bullies, who see themselves as the gatekeepers of the ghetto mentality.
For those bullies no act of transgression is too small to go unnoticed or unpunished. And the worst transgression of all is being too young to understand the suffering of the Troubles and appreciate the so-called sacrifices made. Uniquely among the contestants on The X Factor — whatever obstacles others have overcome to get on the show and have their talent recognised against the odds — Eoghan has the knowledge that as he performs live on primetime Saturday night television (no mean feat in itself), out there, on the other side of the cameras, there are surly, sullen, angry people who do not wish him well.
But it cannot be emphasised enough these are people on the fringes. They have no power. They represent nothing but their own racism and sectarianism.
Wearing a poppy on British television and singing a song in support of soldiers wounded in conflict may only be the tip of the iceberg of hatred that some few evil people still harbour.
For them, even appearing on British television at all in the first place renders you somehow suspect.
What is most telling, though, is that it is the solidity of Eoghan’s own family life, the support of his community and the security of their own sense of themselves which have given him the strength to be his own man and to reach for the stars.
For his dad Chris, it’s “a singing competition. If the song is for the Army, so be it”. Emphasising that he doesn’t agree with the war in Iraq, he went on to say that “this is for people who have lost limbs and lost their lives, whatever they were fighting for”. It’s the mature, laudable, honest view.
Eoghan, he says, “is not a republican. We’ve lived through the Troubles but Eoghan was born in 1992 — he’s far too young to know anything about this”.
But for Republican Sinn Fein and its associates, Eoghan and The X Factor is simply an opportunity to piggy-back on an international hit show to publicise their own grim purpose and repeat their threats to kill us all.
Well, there you go, Richard Walsh and Ruairi O’Bradaigh. Your simple-minded, stupid, bigoted threats only cement our communities closer together and make a common future possible. Eoghan’s a part of that. You aren’t.