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7 January 1999 Edition

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Spinning out of control

by Seán Marlow

The rapid demise of British Trade Secretary Peter Mandelson shows that you can't spin all of the people all of the time. Mandelson was hailed as the architect of New Labour's stunning victory in 1997 after 18 years of Tory rule in Britain.

Blair's election success was at the cost of removing many of Labour's core policies, including their (albeit nominal) commitment to a united Ireland and to socialism in Britain.

Left wing MPs like Kevin McNamara, Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone were sidelined and in came businessmen like Geoffrey Robinson (also resigned) and top lawyer Lord Irvine and, of course the spin-doctors Mandelson and Charlie Whelan (another casualty).

However, it seems that Blair has not learned the lesson from his Christmas debacle and has appointed one of his cronies, Lord Falconer, to take responsibility for the infamous Millennium Dome in London.

Others who are slow learners are the media here in Ireland. They went into apoplexy over the temporary release of POWs (who had served long terms in jail) for Christmas parole - an event which has occurred for a long number of years.

The media and anti-agreement rejectionists like Jeffery Donaldson and Ian Paisley were quick to exploit the feelings of some relatives of victims in their eagerness to oppose the release of prisoners. In doing so they were adding to the grief of the relatives of those who have been killed by the RUC and British Army in the past 30 years, starting with the first victims of violence in 1969.

These relatives have seen their loved ones' killers not only escaping any imprisonment at all, but still carrying their guns on the streets where their victims were killed. And they have the cheek to lecture republicans about decommissioning. (Talking of decommissioning, I often wonder why no-one makes the obvious point that if the Unionists are allowed to rewrite the Agreement by setting a precondition which is not in the original document, this will simply encourage them to pull the same stunt over any other aspect of the Agreement they don't like.)

Another arrogant man who was dizzied by his own spin was Bob McCartney, leader of, well, only himself actually. Bob, like his former UKUP colleague, Conor Cruise O'Brien, is obsessed with the progress of Sinn Fein and wants to walk out of the Assembly if Sinn Fein gets the seats its voters gave it on the Executive - and, anyway, the legal practice pays much better. Bob's less bright Assembly members refused to go along with this brilliant strategy, which would end their (well-paid) political careers. So their leader went to the madia and contemptuously insulted them, saying that they were not noted for strategic thinking and dismissing Cedric Wilson as a ``serial protester''. Just to prove that he was, Cedric interrupted one of Bob's supercilious interviews to protest at McCartney's insults.

The introduction of the Euro in the south also received much media hype but it is too early yet to know if it will suffer from its own spin.

Certainly, very few mentioned the downside of losing all control over interest rates and currency values. What happens, for example, if Sterling decreases in value and leaves Irish industry uncompetitive? No doubt Irish workers will yet again be asked to accept wage restraint to regain competitiveness.

And what happens if, as seems likely, Germany and France experience slowdown while Ireland is still booming? No doubt interest rates will be lowered and the already high inflationary pressures in Ireland will be further increased, leading eventually to an erosion of living standards.

Yes, too much spin can make you dizzy.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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