As with most things in life, particularly those concerning the Irish weather, I was wrong. Saturday morning and the month of February came in with a flurry of snow. Fortunately the snow lasted about as long as a Belfast peace treaty and by 11am all signs of it had disappeared.
St Brigid was cross. Well, that’s what I said to myself when I saw the snow because February 1st is the feast of St Brigid, and we all know what she was famous for.
George came up with a new way to enhance community relations and declared that Protestants should not learn Irish. Well that’s what the headline on the BBC website said but it is not actually what George did say.
“Chittick later told the BBC his remarks were aimed at Protestants seeking funding for Irish language projects, and said he believed they should instead apply for financial grants for employment projects.
He said the Irish language had not been "political" in the past, but this had been changed in recent times by republicans.
Mr Chittick claimed republicans wanted to establish the Irish language in Northern Ireland on the same legal footing as English so that it would become compulsory in order to get a job.”
Poor George seems to be misquoted in the story, but there is still something distasteful in all this anti-anything Irish malarkey, and it is also slightly misplaced.
In 1795, rival sectarian gangs, the Catholic Defenders and Protestant Peep-o'-Day Boys fought a bloody skirmish called the Battle of the Diamond, near Loughgall, which left around 80 people dead. The Orange Order was founded in Loughgall following these events.
Probably everyone who took part in the Battle of the Diamond spoke Irish. The Apprentice Boys, the saviours of Doire, which the English anglicised to Derry and stuck London in front of it just to annoy the natives, also spoke Irish.
And if the orders at the first day of the Battle of the Boyne were not shouted in Irish the local fighters would not have known what to do.
Historical Note: The Battle of the Boyne is the longest battle in history and is not due to finish until sometime around 2190, when it shall be going on for 500 years.
George Chittick and all of us in Northern Ireland speak Irish every day. His home town of Belfast is merely Bél Feirste, ‘the mouth of the sandbanks.’
His beloved Loughgall is Loch gCál, ‘the cabbage lake’ and the Apprentice boys were protecting ‘an oak grove’ or Doire in their language.
But we can be proud that some of our Northern Ireland traditional ways are now finding favour in Westminster. Well, that is if you believe the accusations made by Baroness Morgan.
“Downing Street is ousting non-Conservative supporters from key public body posts, according to the outgoing chair of schools inspectorate Ofsted.
Baroness Sally Morgan told the BBC she was the victim of a ‘determined effort from Number 10’ to appoint more Tories.
The Labour peer has not had her term of office - due to end this month - renewed, but will stay on until a successor takes over in the autumn.”
These reports in the media, if they are right, support my thesis that the good old unionist habit of gerrymandering is alive and well and thriving in some quarters.
Mr David Laws, the education secretary was said to be ‘furious’ at the allegations. Did you ever think to yourself, ‘where is the truth in all of these stories we read in the papers.’
We mortals who haven’t got Baroness or Secretary of State in front of our names just have to take what we are told and make up our own minds about who to believe.
As in all things political, at times like these the wagons are circled and everyone retreats to their own camps: ‘Irish is a republican language and the Tories can’t be trusted,’ or ‘the Orange Order is making sectarian politics out Irish and the Tories are getting jobs for the boys.’ Take your pick.
These things go in swings and roundabouts. I remember being at school in the sixties and getting the cane and strap, not on a regular basis, but the odd time; didn’t do me a button of harm.
Then came the late seventies and eighties and society deemed that caning and the strap were bad for children and that a teacher has to take whatever abuse a child gives to them and dare not raise a voice in response.
Now, after twenty years of almost daily nervous breakdowns by teachers, we are coming back to the idea that perhaps children do need to be disciplined in some way.
Possible sanctions, included in updated guidelines, include weeding school grounds and tidying classrooms.”
As I get older I often wonder if the government employ people who sit in offices to come up with stupid ideas.
Imagine a lower sixth boy, practically a man, and he is caught at some minor infringement of school rules. A ‘five foot nothing’ female teacher, barely ten years older than himself tells him that for his punishment he has to weed the playground in front of all his mates.
The 6th former knows that if he refuses there is nothing the teacher can do, she can’t cane or expel, so the lad shrugs his shoulders and walks off.
End of story.
The Danes, Norwegians and the Swedes ignored him, just as most of us ignore the Orange Order today.
Canute is famous for having tried to hold the tide back with his hand. This is often seen as a vain belief in his own powers but in fact he did it to demonstrate to fawning courtiers the limitations of a king’s power.
We are seeing something of the same mentality coming up today. Poor David Cameron is being berated by the people of South West England because he has not been able to stop the flooding.
When there was a God, events such as flooding or earthquakes could be put down to being an “Act of God,” but since we have dispensed of God and consigned him to the waste basket along with Santa and the tooth fairy, we can’t blame him anymore.
On top of this we now have technology which poor old Canute also had, but to a much lesser extent. He was limited to the wheel and a bow and arrow. We have scientists and big machines, so why should we have flooding; we should not have to put up with it.
Modern people want everything their own way; buy a house on a flood plain where you can’t get insurance because the insurance companies know that God allows rain to fall, and then blame the politicians.
We are beginning to assume that we have total control over everything. This is another example of the swings and roundabouts. Think of what happened when the good decent people of Belfast thought that they could build a ship which was unsinkable.
Well, in fairness, that one has become a good marketing ploy, aka, the Titanic Centre.
“Universities in Germany are unsure of how to deal with neo-Nazi students. Should they expose, expel or just ignore them? The name-and-shame approach used by anti-Nazi activists in recent incidents has sparked criticism and debate. A professor was lecturing about "basic lessons of civil law" for freshmen students at Bochum University when a group of left-wing "Antifa" (anti-fascist) activists dressed as Santa Clauses burst into the hall. They ran up to a male student and pointed at him,” wrote Der Spiegel this week.
Europe is beginning to splinter again. We are breaking up into factions in many different ways. For example, for the first time in my life I shall not be voting at the next elections because I don’t feel that there is any party in Northern Ireland that I can vote for. A society that begins to splinter in this way is on the road to nowhere.
I shall not be taking part in any far right politics even if I do feel disenfranchised but there are many, particularly among the young unemployed in those countries that have a history of right wing politics, who don’t see the world the way I do.
In November last year a French party led by Marine Le Pen and a Dutch anti Islamist politician led by a man called Geert Wilders set up the “Pan European Alliance of Far Right Parties.”
Le Pen predicted, “that the EU will collapse as did the Soviet Union,” and she went on “the aim was to bypass Brussels and restore freedom to the nations and people of Europe.”
"This is a historical day. Today is the beginning of the liberation from the European elite, the monster in Brussels," declared Wilders after meeting Le Pen in the Dutch parliament in The Hague. "We want to decide how we control our borders, our money, our economy, our currency."
The aim of the electoral alliance appears to be to form a Trojan horse in Brussels and Strasbourg: a large parliamentary caucus dedicated to wrecking the very institution that the far-right has entered.
All over Europe as national identities grow again, the Far Right parties are beginning to emerge. They are a symptom of something sick underneath, a system that is failing and a Europe that is reverting to its old ways.
The health of a society is shown by the way in which that society can assimilate people from different cultures. But all the bombers who blew themselves up in England in what has now become known as 7/7, were Muslims born and bred in Great Britain.
Do you remember that at first Britain was trying to blame Pakistani militants until the Pakistani government asked why was it that British born Muslims would turn against the country of their birth?
If a country or continent cannot assimilate and make all people feel comfortable, then eventually the discontents shall rise up. People are fickle, they think evil is funny.....until you get a man like Hitler.
Well, at least we had a good weekend’s rugby with a win for Ireland, and a win for Wales. Of course the best bit of all was seeing France sneak a victory over the English in the last two minutes; tis the stuff of dreams.
All of this comes to us courtesy of that wonderful and upright financial institution the Royal Bank of Scotland or RBS to you and me. They are the crowd who own Ulster Bank, the computerless bank, the one that left us all broke last year and bought us off with a score apiece.
But how things have changed: RBS are sponsoring the Six Nations Rugby Championship: they are accepted by the nice people in the elite world of middle class rugby.
Society has some strange ways of looking at things. There is an obsession with anyone who has had any sort of accusation made against them about behaviour with women and children 40 years ago. The presumption of innocence is thrown out the window and men lose jobs and livelihoods at the slightest suggestion of a crime. People convicted of sexual crimes should do the time: but they should be assumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
Compare that to the treatment of RBS who are under investigation for forcing people out of business so that they could get their hands on the assets.
“The Royal Bank of Scotland is facing a criminal investigation over accusations it deliberately killed off small businesses for its own gain.
The Serious Fraud Office is considering a probe into the taxpayer-owned bank’s treatment of its business customers.” (Daily Mail 27th Nov 2013)
Then there was the Libor affair where the bank was fined for fixing interest rates:
“RBS Securities Japan pleaded guilty on April 12, 2013, to one count of wire fraud for its role in manipulating Yen LIBOR benchmark interest rates. RBS Securities Japan signed a plea agreement with the government in which it admitted its criminal conduct and agreed to pay a $50 million fine.” This is an FBI Press Release, Jan 6th, this year.
“The FSA and US regulators have fined The Royal Bank of Scotland a total of £390m for manipulating Libor,” 6th Feb 2013, Money Marketing.
The next episode in our list concerns money laundering and comes from the Wall Street Journal, Dec 11th, 2013:
“Royal Bank of Scotland, PLC agreed to pay $100 million in penalties over allegations that it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran, Sudan and other nations, in the latest move by regulators to crack down on money laundering.”
It appears that if you are a bank or know the right people then you can do whatever you want and still be acceptable in the upper echelons of society.
Why is it that financial crime, which destroys many people’s lives and lead to many deaths, are still perfectly acceptable in this country? Do you think Bernie Madoff of the New York Ponzi scheme would have served a day here?
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