Echoing down the years

Richard Ingrams , the former editor of Private Eye, once said he gave up on satire when he heard that Henry Kissinger had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Reality was clearly so much more absurd and laughable, satire just had to take a back seat.

I thought of this yesterday when I read The Irish News. (Hey, give me another nationalist daily newspaper and I’ll read it.) The paper reported that in 1898, when Belfast City Hall’s foundation stone was laid, a time capsule was buried beneath, so when the City Hall was given a thorough make-over recently, they thought it’d be fun to see what was in it. Guess what? They couldn’t find the capsule. …But there’s more.

It’s been decided to compose a 2009 time capsule and they’re going to lodge it, this Monday, complete with aluminium case, in the City Hall dome. The Irish News modestly notes that there’s a message from its oldest contributor, 98-year-old columnist James Kelly, and a young reader, 11-year-old Lucy Brennan. There’s even one from the paper’s editor, Noel Doran. Dear Noel’s message exemplifies the prose mastery and intellectual vigour we’ve come to expect. He hopes that in 2112 Belfast will have a ‘confident and prosperous future based on mutual respect for all traditions’.

What was it Mark Twain said? “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”. Yes Mark, but to want your voice to be heard 103 years down the line?

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