Sinn Féin Cheer Leaders: Pic

NKCA recent photograph from the special Sinn Féin Ard Fhéis as an enthralled audience listens to a speech by Mary Lou McDonald.

Middle in bottom row is “Deborah from Dublin”.

After listening to Mary Lou for several hours (and it seemed longer) , the entire Sinn Féin audience went to South Korea to teach North Korean cheer leaders.

The message from Sinn Féin is that Mary Lou McDonald “is brilliant…so she is” and better than Gerry Adams “who was also brilliant …so he was and a visionary, peacemaker and statesman”.

 

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USA: A Lot of Good People There

On this side of the Atlantic, it is easy to see USA in terms of Donald Trump, National Rifle Association, Big Pharma, casual cruelty towards minorities and the unfortunate.

But sometimes in a week like this that has shown us the worst of American values…Trump, Rubio, McConnell and obviously Hannity, Carlson and the rest……..it is nice to see good decent people.

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Civil Rights Commemoration

This year will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Association. No doubt a lot of events planned. This one looks interesting.

CRQUB

Of course a lot of organisations etc will be wrapping themselves in the Civil Rights cause. Some (Sinn Féin for example) will be shameless as they were in 2016 about the Easter Rising.

As I get older, I find that I am actually older than History. Ten years ago I was at Queens University being “taught” Modern Irish History by English people in their 30s. That didn’t go so well for them.

 

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(Cr)Ash Wednesday

So…the Talks have collapsed. The Blame Game begins. No matter what the public statements say, the real debate…the real rancour is within parties. Spokespersons who are put forward (like Simon Hamilton of DUP) are essentially safe pairs of hands.

BREXIT is almost the only game in town. The British Government is no longer an honest broker. (Was it ever?) but the Westminster numbers show that Theresa May needs the DUP more than the DUP needs the Tories. May has no leverage…she has given the DUP millions to shore up her government.

So…no deal on Stormont? Well rather like BREXIT and the Tories who think that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, there are DUPers who see things the same way. Any deal involving an Irish Language Act is simply a step too far for the core supporters of the DUP.

Likewise the Sinn Féin leadership who might forlornly hope for joint sovereignty, there is the reality that they need Stormont more than DUP does. For a start, Direct Rule is the only way that Equal Marriage and Abortion can get on the statute book.

here was never likely to be a deal. And even though, it was well-telegraphed in the past 48 hours, Sinn Féin still looked shell-shocked. The DUP have Westminster influence. Sinn Féin have nothing. It would be easy to blame Mary Lou McDonald but she is not there long enough. And she seemed happy enough to leave the explanations to Michelle O’Neill. Success might have had two mothers. Failure has just one mother.

Humiliating as it is, an agreement without an Irish Language Act, would have been even more humiliating for Sinn Féin.

We have moved from the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 to the Ash Wednesday Disagreement of 2018. In six weeks we might be asked to celebrate the anniversary but tonight it looks shallow.

It seems to be in tatters. Those who opposed it…DUP especially have won. A ham-fisted, cobbled-together set of creative ambiguities designed to put moderates (like UUP and SDLP) in charge and marginalise DUP and Sinn Féin has not worked out that way. While UUP and SDLP might blame the British and Irish governments, they need to look to their own failures.

The Good Friday Agreement HAS achieved Peace. I don’t know how many funerals I attended in the 1970s. Obviously because of my background, there were more Catholic than Protestant funerals………but nevertheless going to the funeral of a (tortured for hours) victim of a Shankill Butcher or a victim of an IRA car bomb explosion in Belfast…it all concentrates the mind. Peace is a very good thing.

But it is a Peace without Resolution. And worse…a Peace without Integrity.

Does anyone seriously doubt that we have moved out of a phase of Post-Conflict.

Welcome to the next phase…Pre-Conflict.

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Sinn Féin Leaders: It Rarely Ends Well

Amid all the hoopla surrounding Mary Lou McDonald becoming President of Sinn Féin (is she the second woman to hold the office?), few are pointing out that this kinda thing rarely ends well.

Contrary to popular belief, Gerry Adams has not been there “forever”. In fact his immediate predecessor Ruaraí O’Bradaigh left Sinn Féin to become leader of Republican Sinn Féin and the leader before that was Tomás McGiolla who left to become the top man in “Official Sinn Féin” later Workers Party.

Some might say that Sinn Féin left O’Bradaigh and MacGiolla.

But Sinn Féin has the curious ability to re-write its own history. Purporting that Womens Suffrage was their idea in 1918 belies the fact that most of its candidates in the 1918 Election were in other parties within a few years and Sinn Féin was meaningless from the 1930s right thru to the early 1970s when as Brian Feeney observes it was little more than the parents and wives…the non-combatants who had relatives interned or imprisoned.

And the current campaign to show Sinn Féin as the party of Civil Rights seems a bit far-fetched even by their own standards of hypocrisy.

Indeed the relationship between IRA and Sinn Féin has not always been so close. Notably in the 1930s, there was a disconnect. A curious history in itself…the Crown Entry Raid, Spain for example. Christy Moore gets all eloquent about “Viva La Quinta Brigada”…but not so eloquent about the IRA in the Second World War.

Didn’t  the great and good of Sinn Féin…including self-deluding lefties march from Parnell Square to Fairview to dedicate a statue to Sean Russell. The name may not be as familiar to you as Sean South and other  post-war martyrs but he was Officer Commanding the IRA who died aboard a German U Boat during the Second World War.

Don’t mention it too loudly at the Felons Club but the IRA supported the Nazis. And don’t mention those bombers or alleged bombers who were hanged for the Coventry bombs.

That Sean Russell…much vandalised…is still in Fairview Park. Is that in Mary Lou McDonalds constituency. Maybe she should do something about it.

So the Jury is out. Is Mary Lou a “visionary, statesman and peacemaker” (no don’t laugh) like Gerry Adams or is she a defector like Ruairí O’Bradaigh and Tomás MacGiolla.

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Votes For Women…er Wrong Centenary

I am bewildered by all these women politicians appearing on TV to tell me that it is one hundred years since women got to vote in the so-called United Kingdom.

Did that really happen in 1918?  and is it a bit premature for the Mother (sic) of Parliaments to congratulate itself.

Well yes I think it is a nonsense.

Democracy and Equality in the right to vote go hand in hand so an unbalanced system with different age limits (21 for men and 30 for women and a property qualification ) is not exactly something to celebrate. A further decade would go by before there was equality.

Which actually changed society more? Extending the franchise to working class men or extending limited franchise to middle class women. While it is often correct to link Gender struggles and Class struggles, this was clearly not the case in 1918.

Of course the Easter Rising Proclamation of the Irish Republic guaranteed universal suffrage to man and women on an equal basis. And this was enacted in the Irish Free State in 1923.

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Norn Iron Comedy: No Laughing Matter

The problem with Comedy in Norn Iron is that everybody is a comedian. Lets be honest, you and I could sit in company with co-workers and the craic would be great. But if a BBC producer was sitting at the next table, he would not turn round and offer us a series.

Because “good craic” is our limit.

Which brings me to “Give My Head Peace” which was unfortunately revived by BBC Norn Iron.

There was a time in the mid-1960s when the Hole in the Wall Gang (responsible for the above) seemed fresh. Their first one-off show in the mid 1990s seemed to capture the mood of the time. “Two Ceasefires and a Wedding” had the troupe in a parody of just about every worthy TV drama set in Belfast.

Going back to the 1950s and Sam Thompson’s “Over The Bridge”, Belfast’s artsy luvvies have been obsessed with the perfect play that would hold a mirror up to the squalid sectarianism of Norn Iron.

“Harry’s Game” based on the  ITN journalist Gerald Seymour’s  novel set the pattern. British Intelligence Officer, under-cover in the IRA and flame haired but doomed heroine from a republican family.

Stewart Parker carried it forward in the 1980s, with the “Billy” trilogy which introduced us to “Sir” Kenneth Branagh as a young loyalist with a doomed love across the barricades romance and James Ellis, a veteran of “Over the Bridge” as his loyalist uncle.

So far, so predictable…in a very worthy way.

“Two Ceasefires and a Wedding” subverted this circa 1995. “Billy” a young RUC man lived with his unreconstructed loyalist “Uncle Andy” in a back-street and a republican family, Ma, Da and their three adult children lived in Divis Tower…and of course love across the barricades blossomed.

Norn Iron in the mid 1990s was on the verge of a peace agreement. It seemed the Troubles had lasted long enough to be a cliché and we had the novelty of laughing at ourselves.

And The Hole in the Wall troupe expanded into sketch comedy with memorable characters like the All-Too-Nices from Cultra and Mickey’s Mammy on the Falls Road. It was the high tide of the ensemble. They were weakened when Nuala McKeever went solo.

And while “Give My Head Peace”, a sitcom based on the original one-off show, was initially successful  with the addition of Red Hand Luke (Dan Gordon) and Big Mervyn (B J Hogg), it was noticeable that the writers/performers (Quinn, McGarry and McDowell) were not inviting us to laugh at ourselves but rather to laugh at people who are not ourselves. It had become the comedy wing of LetsGetAlongerism.

The signs were there that the premise had outlived its purpose. Another sketch show “Dry Your Eyes” was at best patchy and the comedy panel game “The Blame Game” hosted by McGarry and featuring stand-ups like Jake O’Kane and Colin Murphy is a poor imitation of BBCs “Mock the Week”.

Another attempt at sit-com “Number Twos” (based on Stormont special advisors) was risible but oddly the troupes serious drama on the Father Brendan Smyth scandal was the best thing they have ever done.

Maybe Norn Iron politics is just beyond parody or maybe the Peace Process never really matured enough to allow us to laugh. A Sinn Féin MP with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head, “Arlenes on Fire” and a Sinn Féin MLAs solving of his clamped car problem all fall into the “you couldn’t make it up” category.

But the return to the “Give My Head Peace” format with three episodes seems like a last hurrah. Maybe there was a time when “Da”  getting a phone call from “Gerreeeee” was funny. Now it just seems sinister. Maybe “Constable Billy” of the RUC/PSNI underscores the collusion and the neglect of justice and the halfwit loyalists sit uneasily with the reality of Shankill Butchers and romper rooms.

Norn Iron just isn’t funny anymore.

We are used to British comedians being superior about their politics. Is there a single British comedian who voted for BREXIT besides the obvious Jim Davidson?

We are used to American comedians being superior. Is there a single American funny man/woman who voted for Donald Trump?

Which begs the question……….in Norn Iron, Britain, USA….is anything ever going to be funny again?

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