There is a clinking example of the totem pole art at the roundabout as you enter Cookstown from the Dungannon end. If the natives wanted to scare off any aggressors then they certainly did a good job with this one; I was coming home from Dungannon on Thursday evening when I saw it and I was well through Magherafelt before I got over the shock.
Did ever you see an election with as little fuss: there has not been a moment’s excitement in the whole run up to the five yearly sectarian headcount? But then again, how could there be, sure we agree on everything except two points, the flying of flags and a couple of ‘rights of way’ in and around Twaddell Avenue.
The flying of flags is a nonstarter; it is a farce about nothing. The reason for this is that there are flags everywhere, on every pole and stick in the country. Someone should collect all the union flags and sell them to drunk English fans at the next European or World Cup.
“Hi, wee fella,” says your man from Belfast, standing in the Kremlin Square in Moscow, in June 2018, “See this Union Flag, this is the very flag that flew over Belfast City Hall on July 30th 1966, when England beat the Germans. Me da put it up for the 12th but got drunk and forgot to take it down; it’s yours for a score. That’s twenty quid, I don’t accept rubles.”
Think how many tattered and torn flags there are in this country; if our wee friend from Belfast only collected 1% of them he could make a fortune. But what could you do with the totem pole?
I suggest that we all go out and take a photo of our local totem pole and put it above the mantelpiece; it won’t do much for the good of the nation/province but it will keep the children away from the fire.
Indeed, I have a little confession to make, or as they say on RTE, “Talk to Joe.” Every election time for these past thirty years I have my own wee ritual that I carry out. I collect all the election papers that I get through the post and then I have a ‘ceremonial burning’ of them all. I clean out the hearth, lay down a foundation of newspaper, lightly cover with a coating of sticks, sprinkle with a little turf dust and gently set each piece of paper in turn onto the funeral pier.
Then, to the delight of thousands cheering in my head, I light the paper and watch it disappear before my eyes; tis a pity that certain buildings would not go the same way!
The other great bone of contention in our land is the ancient rights of way. Some people hold that they have been using the same routes from the foundation of the Orange Order in 1796 although this is hardly creditable as most of the roads weren’t there at the time. If memory does not play a trick on me I think I can remember the actual Garvaghy Road, as it is today, being built.
Now, the point at issue is: does a right of way pass from one place to another as the landscape changes? Perhaps we should have a national debate on the subject!
There is a big new national debate going on over the water. Well there are quite a few actually.
The biggest and most threatening for us is the rise of the SNP. Where did they come from? You have to hand it to the SNP: without firing a shot, blowing up a bomb and not a peep about rights of way or flags, they have scared the bejeebies out of the Sassenach.
We have bombed, shot and argued for three generations in a row and still the Brits laugh at us; where did we go wrong?
“Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has said he would not join a coalition dependent on life support from the SNP after the general election.
Mr Clegg told the Financial Times he "totally" ruled out "any arrangements" with Nicola Sturgeon's party in the event of a hung Parliament. He also suggested that any coalition formed by the second largest party would lack "legitimacy".
Labour has ruled out forming any coalition with the SNP.” (BBC News)
In the story Clegg went on to really show how firm he was about this issue when he solemnly proclaimed:
"I would never recommend to the Liberal Democrats that we help establish a government which is basically on a life-support system, where (former SNP leader and Parliamentary candidate) Alex Salmond could pull the plug any time he wants. No, no, no."
What a pity he didn’t say “Never, never, never.” Then we would have known that he was serious. A big man used those words one day at the city hall, way back in the days that they could fly the flag there, and he stuck to his ‘never, never, never,’……while it suited him.
‘Cometh the hour, changest the mind,’ or something like that!
From I wrote that bit about an hour ago, (I had to have a cup of tea) I was thinking: Would a decision by the majority of people in Northern Ireland to go it alone cause such consternation in the UK?
What would be the reaction of the ‘Conservative and Unionist Party’ of Great Britain be to the news that their colleagues in Northern Ireland were leaving?
The whole scenario conjures up images of boat people fleeing the New Ireland and heading across the sea to the mother country. In order to distinguish themselves from the fishing boats they could fly their flags as they sail.
Do you think Britain would let them in?
Let’s look back in time to the day when John Major and Albert Reynolds signed that perfidious deal. Major as much as said ‘we don’t want you, now go away and leave us alone!’
Compare that to the John Major who spoke about the SNP last week in relation to the possibility of a deal between the Scots and Labour:
“The former PM said: 'If Labour were to accept an offer of support from the SNP, it could put the country on course to a government held to ransom on a vote-by-vote basis.
'Labour would be in hock to a party that – slowly but surely – will push them ever further to the left. And who would pay the price for this? We all would. We would all pay for the SNP's ransom in our daily lives – through higher taxes, fewer jobs, and more and more debt.'
Sir John added: 'The SNP's driving ambition is an independent Scotland and – as the price for their support – they will demand policies that favour Scotland. That is no way to run a country, and nor is it remotely fair to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This is a recipe for mayhem. At the very moment our country needs a strong and stable government, we risk a weak and unstable one – pushed to the left by its allies, and open to a daily dose of political blackmail.”
What would you want for Northern Ireland if you had the balance of power in a hung parliament? Maybe more jobs, better training, more help for the poor or something to help the community. Well Liam Clarke in the Telegraph on the 18th of April told us what the DUP wanted:
“Yesterday, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the party is pushing for the inclusion of a 'right to march' law as one of its demands. We reported that the DUP had promised the Orange Order it would try to achieve this.
The intention is to seek legislation that would make it more difficult for nationalists to halt parades by protesting, as has happened in north Belfast.
The party's Northern Ireland plan commits the party to seeking "legislation for a new way forward on parading which respects the fundamental rights of assembly".
It also states that in Northern Ireland the party would work to ensure disputes around parades and protests are resolved.”
In fairness to Sammy Wilson, he said that this was only one of about 45 items they had on their list. Has Sammy learnt nothing about political negotiation? The first rule of a list of demands is that it not be too long, two or three items at most, after that everyone gets bored.
So if all our parties between them hold the balance of power we should have only three demands: A flag for every pole, (on designated days) a right of way law, and a United Ireland (on designated days).
That’s right; if the unionists want their flags on designated days then give it to them but at the same time give us a united Ireland on certain days. Even better, why not say that for six months of the year this place is British and for the other six months we are all one country.
Think of the benefits this would bring with it: twice a year all the signposts would have to be changed from miles to kilometres, there would be twice as many accountants in the country in order to deal with two tax systems, twice as many solicitors…….nope, we don’t want that. Let’s have the accountants but not the solicitors; that would be a bridge too far.
I think a United Ireland for six months of the year would be a good idea. It would break us in gently and if we don’t like it sure we could all change our mind. There would be plenty of work and almost everyone would be happy; six months of austerity followed by six months of super-austerity.
The sad thing about me is that I have lived long enough and seen enough elections to know that all these promises we hear will never be kept. No matter who wins the election next week there are more cuts coming, the money is simply not there. When we hear the Conservatives or Labour talk about another £9bn for the NHS don’t wait til they get in to become sick; it is going to be no better.
The happy thing about me is that I have lived long enough to know that there is a God who can accomplish all his promises and has no bother giving people what is really fulfilling if they would only want it.
We can’t blame the politicians for what they do. If David Cameron or Ed Miliband told the truth to the people they would be laughed out of court. When a leader tells the truth the mob usually crucify him! We don’t want to hear the truth simply because the economic problems facing the country and the numbers involved are simply too big for most of us to understand.
How many new lawnmowers would a trillion pounds buy? I don’t even know how many zeros are in a trillion. Come to think of it, I don’t even know the cost of a lawnmower.
On a serious note, there are some people in this world that you just have to admire. I know nothing about the case of John Pat Cunningham but I was surprised to read this at the weekend:
“John Pat Cunningham, who had a learning disability, was killed by members of an Army patrol in Benburb on 15 June 1974.
The man who has been charged is 73 years old and is understood to be a former soldier. He was arrested in England on Tuesday. He is due to appear in court in Omagh, County Tyrone, on Saturday morning. The case has been recently reopened by the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Legacy Investigation Branch.”
I don’t know who and I don’t know why, but someone has kept pushing for this case to be dealt with or it would never have come up again. The solider may be innocent, he has to be given the presumption of innocence, but surely there are a lot of ex UDR and RUC men who must now be thinking about their past.
We live in a very imperfect world and it is a world that is always in a mess. And yet as spring comes and the sun begins to shine we all feel that little bit happier. ISIS is still killing people, suicide bombers are dying every day across the Middle East and the great holocaust of the West continues unabated.
Europe essentially decided to do nothing about the boat people other than let them drown and leave Italy and Greece to pick up the pieces. Preparations are being made to throw Greece out of the Euro and the seeds of the destruction of the EU are being sown; as it becomes apparent that Europe is in terminal decline the national self-interests are coming to the fore.
The next fifty to a hundred years are going to be very interesting. It’s a pity most of us reading this will not be around to see the end of it all. From Cain slew Abel the world has tumbled along from one crisis to the next; how does it keep going without hitting some sort of massive disaster. We always appear to be on the brink but we pull back just at the end.
But there is something wonderful about living in an imperfect world; it causes us to ask questions.
For example, if the world is such a mess, how can God make all things perfect in heaven? Now there is a question for a national debate, something which would keep the politicians quiet for a few hundred years.
We can never find out the answer to such a question, but the searching for the answer gives life a whole new meaning and makes the world around us look a lot better. A God who can take a mess like this and turn it into a heaven is a leader worth following.
He does the same with our lives if only we allow him.
The views expressed are not necessarily those of the editor but are the views of the writer.
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