30 August 2007 Edition
This columnist’s definition of mental torture is in attendance at every Irish summer school throughout the season, listening to eminent egos pronouncing on the need for the Irish unwashed to learn moderation and civilised values. Now and then, this condition is transformed into helpless stupefaction as an act of gross hypocrisy is presented as some sort of reconciliation
Former head of the Northern Ireland Office, top civil servant Kenneth Bloomfield, generously informed the Merriman Summer School that if the Six County population accepted Irish unity he would not be greatly discommoded. Such unity would not, of course, depend merely on a democratic majority (since when did unionists accept that a democratic majority should determine anything?)
Bloomfield graciously acknowledged that the old Six County regime had been slow to recognise the Irish identity of an “extensive minority” of the population.
Naturally, nobody and certainly nort the Irish Times in its reportage, pointed out that a simple majority in a gerrymandered state was considered more than ample reason for dismissing the nationality of an “extensive” number of its citizens and that the denial of civil rights, not to mention nationality, was another essential aspect of the unionist state. And of Bloomfield’s own role in the denial of equal rights to Catholics, there was not a murmur. One might not expect this from the most crucially placed civil servant in the North over several decades but surely someone at the Summer School, or even a journalist, might have plucked up the courage or the wit to make such a simple observation.
This is not to argue that individual blame should be attached in acts of personal recrimination. It is simply to point out that the denial of civil rights and the violence used to suppress that demand, led to the violence of 30 years and more. However, the revisionist urge to present that conflict as a war between extremes has survived, to a significant extent, the Peace Process.
Bloomfield was projected as a man of irreproachable democratic credentials in accepting the existence of Sinn Féin in the Six County administration despite being the target of an IRA attack in 1988. A statement by numerous Sinn Féin members who were similarly attacked by the state and unionist paramilitaries who were manipulated by the state, to the effect that they were generous to sit down in Stormont with the same people, would be met with outrage and incredulity.
Bloomfield has made himself available to the public, in carefully selected media outings, because he has written a book, that he needs to promote, entitled A Tragedy of Errors. How about a book entitled A Tragedy of Deliberate Sectarian Misrule?
Nothing became Pat Rabbite’s leadership of the 26 county Labour party as much as his departure and not even the dearth of real news stories to liven up the silly season could persuade the political correspondents to disguise the fact that he bowed out with a whimper. However, even greater insult came in a supposed tribute and analysis from the Irish Times Fine Gael cheerleader, Stephen Collins.
Collins is the chief media propagandist for Fine Gael and of the need for Labour to subordinate its own interests to that of a Fine Gael-led coalition. Collins noted the day after Rabbitte’s resignation that his coalition strategy had failed but refused to accept the reason for the failure. The next day, in a long analysis of Labour’s problems, Collins mentioned everything but the party’s suppression of its policies to those of Fine Gael. Collins also argued that the party should move sharply to the right – as if Labour had campaigned on a socialist programme up to now. He congratulated Rabbitte for adopting tax cuts and law and order policies but argued that these came too late to make a difference.
As the journalist who more than any other encouraged and then applauded Rabbitte for tagging on to the Blueshirts one might have expected a little contrition from Collins. Not a bit of it. Just some patronising comments about the need to resist despair and stick to the new Blairite programme adopted by Labour. Thanks very much Stephen.
Gloating is not part of the Kerry football psyche. In fact, this hack would almost have sacrificed victory last Sunday if it meant that the myth about the greatest feat in history of human endeavour – Dublin’s 1977 victory over Kerry – was to be regarded as just another, admittedly unusual, statistic. Fact is that last Sunday’s game could have gone either way and apart from a bit of dangerous play – from both sides – was an intense and elevating sports contest. The Jacks will be back again. But what will the bereaved, Dublin-based sports hacks have to write about in the meantime? A mere 31 county football or hurling final?