What does he know that we don’t?
It’s just as well Peter is First Minister and not the Minister for Tourism. Imagine a minister for tourism refusing a junket to, for example, the US and saying that he had to stay in Northern Ireland because “I am expecting riots in the streets over the next few weeks.”
“Is there a crisis looming?” asks a bewildered US reporter.
“Naw, every year we go through this. We have three months of unrest during the summer. But be sure to tell the people to come and visit any time between June and the Last Saturday of August. Oh, but tell them not to hire a Free State car; they burn too easily.”
In the Mirror newspaper the report ran
“The DUP leader told the BBC: I just think things are so serious that to be out of Northern Ireland at this time would be entirely wrong.
Riots have followed annual Twelfth of July loyal order demonstrations in North Belfast for many years.
Restrictions have in the past been imposed on a parade through a short stretch of road passing nationalist housing in Ardoyne but a heavy security presence has been necessary to enforce the separation of loyalists and republicans and keep the peace.”
There you have it, Peter has made it official, we can all expect trouble. But in fairness to our noble first minister, if the Orangemen of Holland get to the World Cup final on Sunday July 13th, the day between the 12th and the Sham Fight at Scarva, sure the wee north will go mad with joy.
Imagine if they win! It would be almost as good as Northern Ireland winning.
Personally I would like to see Holland win the competition and I would not mind in the least if the Orange Order made a big thing of it. Holland is a great footballing nation and deserves a win after having been beaten in the final on three occasions.
They lost 2-1 to Germany in 74, 3-1 to Argentina in 78 and 1-0 to Spain in 2010.
Poor Spain are going home with their tail between their legs. It was sad to see them so humiliated when they played Chile and lost 2-0. They looked old and tired: a bit like the Northern Ireland assembly!
To the surprise of everyone and the delight of many, the minnows of the tournament Costa Rica beat Italy 1-0 to send England packing; England cannot now qualify for the knock out stages.
If, like me, you do not know where Costa Rica is, you will find that it is one of the countries of that wee squiggly bit that joins North America to South America. My wife points out that they are part of the Central American countries. I didn’t even know that Central America existed.
Well, this mighty Central American footballing nation has 4.8 million people and a squad that most of us have never heard off.
For a few minutes on Friday evening they were the heroes of every anti English fan in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales; their win doomed England to an early flight home.
Perhaps this anti England sentiment in everything is something that many of us should take a look at. Let’s go back to our imaginary Minister for Tourism talking to the American organizing a tourist conference.
“How can a small country like Northern Ireland afford three months of civil unrest every year? Who pays for the policing, who pays for the damage? Do the people not object to the increases in taxation that this must cause?” asks our American friend.
“Ah, no, the rioting costs us nothing. We just send the bill over to England and they pick up the tab. Sure we were the only country ever to have a thirty year civil war and our standard of living improved fivefold during this period. Every time a town was blown up the English just rebuilt it; we have the most modern towns in Europe, all freshly built in these last thirty years!”
“Then,” says our bewildered American friend, “You will have been heartbroken to see England being put out of the World Cup.”
“No way,” says Minister O’Flaherty, “It is great to see them humiliated and broken hearted, sure it’s good enough for them!”
But what is wrong with English football?
Poor old England got stopped in their tracks: Luis Suarez 2, England 1.
England is a great footballing nation with no team!
Uruguay is a small South American country (that’s the bit down from Central America) that lives just above the poverty line. Our Queen lives in a wonderful palace in the heart of London, “not so in Uruguay. The president lives on a ramshackle farm and gives away most of his pay. Laundry is strung outside the house. The water comes from a well in a yard, overgrown with weeds. Only two police officers and Manuela, a three-legged dog, keep watch outside.” (BBC News 2012)
Maybe the English players don’t get paid enough; Rooney is only on £300,000 a week, Gerrard in on 140,000, Glen Johnson is on 110,000 while Daniel Sturridge is a relative pauper at 70,000.
Just think, if most of us could earn in a year, half of what Sturridge earns in a week, we would consider ourselves rich.
I suppose it’s all relative. But it is certain that England are on their way home and we will have to listen to calls for the manager to resign and a host of pundits say what is wrong.
What is wrong is simple: they haven’t got the players! Some things money can’t buy.
But it shows a deeper reality; money and prestige really mean nothing at the end of the day. The English players are feted by a subservient press, paid too much in wages, far more than they are worth, and can’t produce the goods when the time comes.
Will this fiasco ever change?
As you would expect, things are not changing in the Free State either:
“It has emerged that Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Niall Collins wrote to a judge asking him not to jail a convicted drug dealer. Judge Caroll Moran was asked not to attach any weight to the letter written by the high-profile public representative at a sitting of Limerick Circuit Criminal Court earlier this week.
The handwritten letter by Mr Collins was presented by lawyers representing a 40-year-old father-of-four from Co Limerick.” (RTE News)
That was the sort of behaviour that used to drive us crazy in the north when judges would hand down much tougher sentences to one section of the community while being lenient to another.
In the near future, the judges of the new north may well have the opportunity to show their impartiality:
“The Police Service of Northern Ireland has said it will treat the erection of loyalist flags in a mixed area of south Belfast as a breach of the peace.
It follows discussions with Sinn Féin assembly member Alex Maskey.
Mr Maskey said officers who watched flags being put up in the Ballynafeigh area of the Ormeau Road brought themselves into disrepute.” (BBC News)
But the PSNI are playing it coy:
A PSNI spokesperson added: “The erection and removal of flags and banners falls within the remit of the Joint Protocol in Relation to the Display of Flags in Public Areas.
This protocol was to be reviewed by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and the police service looks forward to the outcome of this review and future clarity on the flags issue.
A long term resolution to the display of flags and banners in public areas can only be reached by political consensus.”
Really it does not matter what the outcome is; there are changes in Northern Ireland and because of legislation about equality and freedom to live in peace and quiet, these changes are going to come about. They may be delayed but they are not going to be stopped.
Why is living in peace so difficult to attain?
On the subject of peace and quiet, while all of you were having your Sunday morning fry, I headed off to the moss to nip and turn some turf.
If ever you want a place for some quiet reflection, go to the moss; armed with my spade, a pair of gloves, a kneeler to keep my knees clean, and a bottle of water, I arrived in the middle of a mountain bog ready for a day’s work.
Out there in the silence, with just a few birds and the odd rodent, a man can soon get in touch with his inner thoughts.
On the way up I had listened on the radio to some man talking about ‘victims.’ Here in the mountain stillness it dawned on me that there are a lot of people in Northern Ireland who have a vested interest in victims; counsellors, self help teachers, community relations people, and a host of others who are involved in different aspects of conflict resolution.
There is a whole new victim industry in which it is crucially important that we tell ourselves that victims cannot move on until we say they can move on, that nothing in the line of forgiveness can be expected of a victim and that no political progress can be made unless the victims allow it.
Then something hit me that actually made me feel quite angry. It is something that has lain beneath the surface of my thinking but which did not come up so plainly until Sunday morning. It is this:
‘There is a constant undercurrent in the whole victim industry that somehow the victims are the fault of the IRA and hence of Catholics. There is a subtle, almost subliminal, stream in the media reporting on victims that tends to regard victims as those people who in some way were connected with the unionist side in our civil war.’
‘Further, this feeds, and is meant to feed into, the racist (and I deliberately use the word racist) view that the Catholic/Nationalist is not to be trusted and when the Catholics rose up in 1969 they had nothing to rebel about.’
Perhaps the victims issue has taken on a life of its own and become the new tool of Unionism in holding up all political progress. Perhaps, may I dare to say it, the victims are being used by the politicians for their own ends.
In all the talk of victims there is never a mention of the power of forgiveness. Once forgiveness is referred too we always hear, ‘Oh, I do not feel I can forgive,’ or even worse, some psycho babble doctor says, ‘these people are not in a position to be able to forgive.’
For me the second answer, ‘these people are not in a position to be able to forgive,’ is only proof that too many people have a vested interest in keeping people in bondage to the past; there are too many handy jobs.
Forgiveness is a decision, it is not a feeling. If we are sitting around waiting for the feeling of forgiveness to come up we will sit til doomsday, because the feeling of forgiveness does not exist.
That is the problem with so many of us today, we live on the level of the emotions, we do not understand that mature people live by reason: I decide to forgive someone because it is the reasoned thing to do. If I don’t forgive I hold myself in bondage to the past for as long as I live and I can never move forward.
But forgiveness is not an emotion it is an act of will. We say something like this to God: “I forgive that person and no matter what emotion I feel; I keep in mind that I have made a decision to forgive and I refuse to live by my emotions. I forgive because if I don’t forgive I cannot get over this hurt.’
You see, forgiving has nothing to do with the one that caused you pain. Forgiving liberates your soul and then God does the healing.
But if you don’t believe in God or if you are still emotionally immature and want to live on your feelings, then forgiveness is not for you: forgiveness is the work of mature people, people who want to live happy and free lives in a harsh and difficult world.
When you think of it, forgiveness has no place in a province like Northern Ireland, where we still live on pocket money from the British and are desperately afraid of facing the reality of the hatred in our society and, shall I say, enjoy seeing the hand that feeds us be robbed of a soccer championship.
Thank God, that…
The views expressed are not necessarily those of the editor but are the views of the writer.
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