As a nationalist I shall start off with ‘our side.’
Thirty years ago the big escape from the Maze took place. I was a lot younger then and had different attitudes from those I hold today. Leave that aside. What can we say about the escape that Sunday evening?
As a military operation it was a huge success; as a propaganda coup it could not have been bettered and as a morale booster for the nationalist people of the Old North, it was truly a tonic.
We talked about it for days, laughed at and listened to stories told of how men got away with close shaves and we listened to every snippet of news to hear if anyone had been captured.
We also noted, as was to be expected, that any escapee captured by the SAS in Northern Ireland didn’t make it to the prison again alive.
Be all that as it may, we are now twenty odd years into a ‘peace process,’ and people are rightly questioning the tweets by certain politicians celebrating the event.
Then on the Nolan show we had a DUP MLA saying that the DUP will never treat Sinn Fein the same as other democrats.
Let us go back a little bit....to about 108BC. This was the year that Cicero, the great Roman Orator, was born. He once said in a speech, “ The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, ‘Cui Bono,’ To whose benefit?”
I would ask the same today of Gerry Kelly and Gregory Campbell when I hear them play to crowd like this.
“Cui Bono, Gerry and Gregory?”
To whose benefit is it that you both stir up the passions of the people? Are you playing to your electorate or is there some benefit to us and our country in your ranting? Are we forever going to be plagued by politicians who call out to the lowest common denominator and play on our tribal fears?
On the same radio programme last week the victim’s commissioner Kathryn Stone said that the “ongoing political fallout does not give victims confidence or reassurance.” I think that a bit of an understatement. But then again, the politicians pull the ‘appropriate’ victims out when they need them.
This is the really sad aspect of Northern Ireland politics, we have still not moved from the time when you could put a donkey up for election with the right flag on its back and the people would vote for it.
Are we ever going to move on?
Gerry Kelly and Gregory Campbell are shrewd politicians and like all good politicians they have learnt how to play their constituency. The master at this was Big Ian. Do you remember the time that John Paul the Great went to the European parliament in Strasburg and Paisley started ranting and roaring and had to be expelled from the chamber?
You know, when you come to think about it, we cannot blame Gerry Kelly or Gregory Campbell for what they are at. We still vote for them so we must accept that this is what we want in our politicians. If we really did not want it we would vote for someone else.
This is where we as individuals have to accept responsibility for the way we cast our votes. Let me explain.
In the last election in Mid Ulster I did not vote for Sinn Fein for the first time in 30 years. The party voted for something in Stormont and in the Dail which I do not believe in and which I believe shall be detrimental to our society.
Sinn Fein as a party are entitled to hold their own policy, while I, as a voter, must study their policies and decide where to place my vote.
I made a stand. I decided not to vote for Sinn Fein and I constantly tell other people that I speak to my reasons for not voting Sinn Fein; the particular issue is important to me.
We, the people who vote for whatever party, we are the people who can force change. But we must accept responsibility for our actions.
I believe that Gerry Kelly and Gregory Campbell, being shrewd politicians, are simply playing to their constituency; if our voting habits changed the attitude of the politicians would soon follow.
Then, to top it all someone came out with the news that “Power Sharing in Stormont is in Crisis.”
The BBC reported:
Mr (Gerry) Kelly said the DUP were allowing extremists to dictate their policies.
"We are in a crisis," he said.
"We are in partnership government. That hasn't been manifested, especially in the office of the first minister and deputy first minister (OFMDFM), and in the relationship between the first and deputy first ministers.
"The government works on the basis of power sharing, that has to be a leadership of power sharing, everything in that office has to be by consensus."
It is not often that I would agree with Mike Nesbitt but I think his simple blunt analysis of the whole uproar summed it up best:
‘Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Mike Nesbitt MLA, also said there is no crisis at Stormont.
Mr Nesbitt said: "There is no crisis; there is just some competitive posturing between Sinn Féin and the DUP.
"But there is a fundamental issue which has raised itself to the surface again and it is who really wants to share power, share space and share a future.”’
In case you don’t know, there are elections next year to the new ‘super-councils.’ I would think that the battle lines are being drawn and the lads and lasses on the Hill have begun a bit of pre-Christmas campaigning, just to keep their names in the headlines.
The week was not all dour politics. There was the odd bit of news that brought a smile to my face.
“I had a wee giggle to meself, who wad wane te invade Scootland?”
To the west of Scotland is Northern Ireland and sure we are all cousins and second cousins of the Scots as it is. We couldn’t invade it, we would only go and visit our relatives.
To the south of Scotland is England. They have the greatest soccer league in the world, the greatest rugby league in the world and the greatest press in the world, so they are busy enough.
Oh, and they have the greatest tennis player in the world.....eh, sorry, Murray is Scottish. But the English only fight where the Americans tell them too and I don’t think Uncle Barack needs a Scottish Castle.
To the east, across the North Sea, Scotland faces Norway and Denmark. Hardly great threats to world peace, these two countries, are they. In fairness, there is a wee bit of Germany that sticks out up there, the part around Hamburg and Bremen, but at the moment Germany has given up going to war for Lent, so Scotland should be safe for now.
This is Westminster’s version of what we heard on the Nolan show all week; scaremongering among the natives.
When it comes to politics there are only two ways of approaching the voter; tell them ‘they never had it so good’ if you are the party in power, or scare the wits out of the people by saying that the world is going to end if you vote for this or that.
In Northern Ireland we say, ‘if you don’t vote for the Catholic the Prod is going to get in’ (or vice versa) and in England, the pro union people are trying to tell the Scottish that if they vote for independence that their land shall be invaded.
Then I also learnt on the news at the weekend that Northern Ireland is not the only place in Europe that is living in a ‘time warp.’
“Spanish MPs are to consider changing time zones by an hour after a report said this would improve eating, sleeping and working habits.
The document by a parliamentary commission said that "Spain for more than 71 years has not been in the correct time zone".
In 1942, the Spanish dictator General Franco moved Spain onto Central European Time to follow Nazi Germany.
The report says Spain should be in the same time zone as the UK and Portugal.”
This report came out last week and it answers so many questions, such as why the Spanish are always a wee bit hazy looking when you go to Barcelona. Their body clocks are all off; they should have more sleep and should be on the same time zone as us.
Now that is the UK time zone of GMT, Greenwich Mean Time, not the UK Unionist time zone of 1690+zero, the time that never changes.
While Gerry Kelly was celebrating the big break out with a tweet, we all learned that there might have been no Long Kesh to escape from or no Britain to fight with had it not been for the actions of one Stanislav Petrov.
Thirty years ago, on 26 September 1983, the day after the Long Kesh escape which was the subject of Kelly’s tweet, the world was saved from potential nuclear disaster.
In the early hours of the morning, the Soviet Union's early-warning systems detected an incoming missile strike from the United States. Computer readouts suggested several missiles had been launched. The protocol for the Soviet military would have been to retaliate with a nuclear attack of its own.
But duty officer Stanislav Petrov - whose job it was to register apparent enemy missile launches - decided not to report them to his superiors, and instead dismissed them as a false alarm.
This is the sort of thing Captain Kirk used to do every week on Star Trek but when you read about in the cold light of day you realize how close we constantly are to disaster.
Then we had the laugh of the week, the phoney war in Fermanagh, about the sale of a farm.
I remember a phrase used by Fionnuala O’Connor years ago in the middle of the Drumcree Crisis, say about 96/97. There was a lot of talk about a boycott of Protestant businesses in the north as a result of the Drumcree standoff.
Fionnuala said, in reference to Orangemen complaining about the boycott, “Men who had never knowingly bought of a Catholic...”
That was some line and everyone in Northern Ireland knew it to be true.
Then last week we had the spat in Stormont about the sale of a farm in Fermanagh. What a row about nothing. I know nothing about the sale of this farm so I can say nothing about it.
But we all know that in the north, New or Old, you don’t sell to the ‘other side.’ All our lives we have heard places referred to as, ‘that used to be Protestant land,’ or ‘you know so and so, he sold his house to one of them.’
The weekend over, we now head into a new week. What was the news over the weekend? Greece arresting MPs for being members of a criminal organization, Italy in its usual crisis and America on the brink of another financial crisis as Republicans and Democrats put party interests ahead of the people.
Something else happened over the weekend—the fifth anniversary of the bank guarantee in the Free State, the day Cowen handed the keys to Europe on the lies of the bankers. In fairness to Cowen it has now transpired that Cowen was lied to by the banks the whole way and many believe that they are still not telling the truth.
We have gotten to a sorry state. We believe and trust no one. The banks have constantly been paying back money for shady deals, politicians use fear and bigotry to control the people and Berlusconi has taken his men out of the Italian government. He is in a huff.
But at last peace is in the air.
The Orange Order is going to talk to the people of Ardoyne if they are allowed to walk home first.
My gut instinct is, “Ha, let them walk home and they shall rub the Catholic’s noses in it just as Paisley and Trimble did at Drumcree.”
But times have changed. The nationalist leaders should be able to make this concession and publicly hold the Orange Order to account.
Test them and see if they are in good faith.
Leadership, Gerry, is about knowing when to take the risk of trusting, it’s not always about the glory of the past.
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