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25 November 2004 Edition

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The 5th Column

Arms and the DUP man

DEMANDS by DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson that hard-line unionists must have some "visual" evidence of any future act by the IRA putting weapons beyond use, more convincing than the eyewitness testimony of Canada's top career military men (accepted under the Good Friday Agreement) caused Irish News columnist Jude Collins to wonder if Peter Perfect thought he was the man for the job.

Robinson's Apache-style seizure of the sleepy Monaghan village of Clontibret back in the 1980s, the DUP's blood-curdling midnight hillside rallies with thousands of 'Third Force' unionists waving gun licences threateningly at nationalist family homes, and Peter donning a red beret as a gauleiter of Ulster Resistance (up to its armpits in weapons from Apartheid South Africa) didn't cut much ice with Jude.

"Peter's military experience is zilch. He may be a political pin-up in the pleated skirts quarters, but in all things military the DUP deputy leader is an empty suit."

Not an empty suit, Jude, but rather a full metal jacket.

Just for the record, we reprint a library photo of Rambo Robinson being a little too familiar with some heavy duty firepower during a previous visit to Occupied Palestine as the guest of the Israeli Government.

Exit stage left

FRESH after confessing that he's a socialist, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has now revealed that he's a thespian.

Bertie has been taking personal tutorials from the director of the Gaiety School of Acting, Patrick Sutton, on everything from voice projection to body language.

Maybe Bertie's rehearsing for his next act: I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Outta This Coalition.

Off with their toffs

VERMIN threaten to sweep across the Irish countryside if last week's ban on fox hunting in Britain is enforced in the New Year. Yes, Prince Charles and England's landed gentry will pack their riding crops and have their manservants drag their forelocks across the Irish Sea for the redcoats to practice their 'sport' here.

And a new form of landlordism is being touted in the society glossies, as English toffs try to buy membership of over-subscribed hunts lest they be squeezed out of the few 'guest' places hunts have for visitors.

Actor Jeremy Irons is 'Master of the Hunt' in West Carberry, County Cork, while Lucy Ferry, the former wife of the singer Bryan Ferry, hunts in Limerick. Her son, Otis, was one of the upper-class twits who stormed the House of Commons in September in a pro-hunting protest.

Now Otis is complaining that he can't phone his chums because he fears he is being bugged by MI5 under anti-terrorism legislation.

"I know that my phones are tapped, all of them," Otis whined to society hacks at a Tatler magazine upper crust ball this month. "So now I can't use the phone to plan anything — at least, anything illegal."

Maybe he's not as thick as one might think.

Police poster pin-up

THE POSH people's pin-up is also the poster boy of the police. It was discovered this week that Otis Ferry had his cache of legally-held guns, a computer and other items, lifted by the law after a raid on his country home in Shropshire.

Ferry, the joint master of the South Shropshire Hunt, is on police bail following his arrest after his House of Commons invasion and has since vowed to defy a ban on hunting when it comes into force in February.

The police raid came after Otis told the media that feelings are running so high that "people might get assassinated".

Maybe he is as thick as one might think.

The thrill of the chase

WILL FOX-HUNTER FELONS be revered as political prisoners by their jailhouse peers? Probably not, according to Scottish Sunday Herald columnist Muriel Gray. The straight-talking Muriel writes:

"A letter to The Guardian from a former prison officer warned any potential martyrs that inmates might not give pro-hunters the warm welcome one should expect to be afforded to bold civil rights campaigners. Whereas Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan was, by all accounts, treated with civility and respect by his fellow inmates, understanding as they did the reasons he was serving time, it's unlikely that Otis and his chums will be regarded as anything other than fresh meat to be hunted. I'm sure they'll enjoy the chase round the shower blocks. All perfectly natural."

Bono's grand gestures

BONO'S hissy fit over being bested by the lead singer of The Darkness, Justin Hawkins, over one of the Do They Know It's Christmas song's most famous lines, really showed us cynics that the Band Aid Third World charity gig is as much about some people's egos as the cause itself.

The incisively witty comedian and thoroughly socialist columnist of the London Independent, Mark Steel, notes that Bob Geldof admits to never having taken part in Rock Against Racism in the 1970s, set up to counter the rise of the National Front and the far right, because Sir Bob, knight of the British realm, thought it wouldn't change anything.

Mark Steel says that charity is double-edged and surveys on who gives how much show that we have created a novel form of taxation, where the destitute of one part of the world rely on funding from the poor of another part of the world. Besides: "However much Band Aid raises, it is unlikely to come near one day's spending on the war in Iraq."

And he writes of the latest Band Aid venture:

"When Bono says, 'Just £2,000 is all that's needed to feed this village', you can't help thinking, 'Well, GIVE it to them then. You've probably got that down the back of your settee next to some lost sunglasses.'"

Poxy record

THE GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS celebrated its 50th birthday last week. Among such quintessential English-held records as 'World's Fastest Ferret' and 'Fastest Baked Bean Eater', Britain's armed forces proudly hold another, which they surprisingly don't shout about too often these days - 'Earliest Use of Smallpox as a Weapon'.

Light years ahead of Iraq, British soldiers used the deadly disease in the French and Indian Wars of 1754-1767 by distributing smallpox-impregnated blankets to Native Americans.

Now that is a human rights record breaker.

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