Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

21 January 1999 Edition

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Big strong men

By Sean Marlow

``Have you heard about the big strong man, who lived in a caravan?'' No, I'm not referring to Harold Gracey, so it's safe to read on.

I was reminded of this wee Wolfe Tone's ditty (which I used to endure 20 times a day on the jukebox as I worked behind the bar in the Star Of the Sea in Bundoran) when I heard David Trimble berating Gerry Adams, saying ``he hasn't the brains or the bottle'' to surrender weapons which he hasn't got. This red-faced outburst was followed by John Taylor calling Seamus Mallon a coward because the SDLP refused to give in to UUP demands to breach the Good Friday Agreement and shut SF out of the Executive.

The scenario is rich in irony. For the past seven months Trimble apologists from Ruth Dudley Edwards, Paul Bew, Eoghan Harris to Irish Times editorials, have been bleating about the weakness of Trimble. He really would like to implement the Agreement, they whine, but look at how vulnerable his position is. He is in grave danger of being the other big strong men of Unionism - Paisley (a demagogue who should have been faced down over 30 years ago) and McCartney (an arrogant egotist whose UKUP imploded last month) - so republicans should forget about the letter of the Argeement and help Trimble out of a hole (that he dug, and is still digging, for himself).

If Trimble really was to show some courage and positively promoted the Agreement, there is no doubt that he could easily win the support of the ordinary sensible Protestant people who realise that the days of domination and inequality are over. Instead, he strengthens the hands of the abominable no-men by stalling and dithering. A good example was when he weakly failed to expel dissident Peter Weir for voting against his party's motion in the Assembly. So annoyed at Trimble's feebleness was UUP member Duncan Shipley Dalton, that he resigned as Deputy Chief Whip.

Trimble's pathetic performance is reminiscent of that of another Unionist leader, Captain Terence O'Neill 30 years ago. If O'Neill and, more importantly, the British Government had stood up to Unionist reactionaries in the late 60s and early 70s, instead of allowing John Taylor to send in the RUC who killed nationalists and David Trimble's Vanguard to prevent powersharing, then the tragedy of the past 30 years could have been avoided.

Another big strong man who, hopefully, will get his come-uppance, is Chilean dictator Gen Pinochet. Pinochet's latest attempt to avoid justice is supported by his good friend, Margaret Thatcher and those stalwart (anti-violence!) FAIT supporters, Andrew McKay and Andrew Hunter. The mass murderer is being allowed a second hearing in the House of Lords because one of the Law Lords who participated in the first hearing had connections with Amnesty International. Strange then, that neither Thatcher nor Hunter nor FAIT has been asking for a retrial for the thousands of republicans who were jailed by British Army Old Boys on the bench.

A classic example was the recently departed Lord Lowry, who was praised in the press and by other judges for his ``service'' in the British Army. Maybe that explains why only four British soldiers and no RUC members were ever convicted for the nearly 400 killings of mostly unarmed cvililians - and that's not even counting the dozens of cases of collusion with loyalist death squads.

A former big strong man who used to make a lot of noise has suddenly gone very quiet. He is Health Minister Brian Cowen and he used to be constantly on TV and radio (rightly) denouncing the performance of the FG/Lab/ DL government. But now he has disappeared and I'm not surprised.

Due to the increased productivity of Irish workers, the government has over £900m surplus funds but the health system is breaking down with huge waiting lists and patients left on trollies for three days or more. At the same time hospital beds and whole wards lie empty because of a shortage of nurses. FF and PD politicians like to claim that ``the market'' is the reason for the obscene salaries for business executives.

But Cowen has refused to even implement the minimal pay rises for nurses recommended after the last dispute while his government caved in to two days of Blue Flu and awarded massive increases to the Gardai. Not surprisingly, the result is a long queue for Garda entry while nurses can't be found to look after the sick and dying.

Big strong men are not so well endowed with brains!

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland