Wasn’t last night’s presidential debate a gas? The main reason, of course, was Vincent Browne. He was at UCD in my time – a big man in UCD’s Fine Gael – and although we moved on different planes (he got involved, I stood with the Derry crowd, our arses against the corner radiator, over-awed), I kind of liked him. Rumpled. Rushing. Human. He hasn’t changed much.
He certainly got stuck into everyone in sight last night. Mary Davis for her lucrative quangos, Sean Gallagher for his Fianna Fail connection, David Norris for those letters/his views on pederasty – the last maybe a lethal blow – the ineffable Ger Colleran, he of the Irish Daily Star, talked about Norris’s ‘evisceration’. But then Colleran, in the post-debate discussion, was keener to hurry on and plunge Martin McGuinness in a bath of blood, essentially blaming him for the Troubles and every life lost in the Northern conflict. In the follow-up discussion, Browne had lined up people who were clearly batting for their own candidate, and (brace yourself for a surprise) none of them was batting for Martin McGuinness.
So let’s deal with this ‘terrorist in the Aras’ thing once and for all, and then for God’s sake let’s see if we can’t move to looking at what qualities the candidates have that fits them for the Aras.
OK, here we go:
1. Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson et al in the DUP have worked with Martin McGuinness for well over a decade now, and only an ignoramus or a liar would deny that they’ve responded to him as a legitimate and effective politician. Far from being a terrorist in Stormont, they know he’s a vital bulwark of the peace process. Some DUPers will be secretly dismayed if he wins the presidential contest and they lose him.
2. There is no rational line that can be argued which says that McGuinness is fine ‘up there’ but a deadly danger ‘down here’. Except, of course, you’re a southern partitionist who is scared witless at the way the North has begun to play an increasing part in the public life of the south. Ask Gay Mitchell – he’ll tell you. He’ll even tell you before you ask him.
3. To argue that someone previously involved in political violence is by definition debarred from public life in the south is not only hypocritical, it’s insulting to anyone possessed of half a brain.
* Cathal Brugha, a name synonymous with IRA violence, was appointed Minister for Defence and served as President of Dail Eireann.
* Sean Mac Eoin, leader of a flying column who had people shot in their beds, with their families, at their work – anywhere and everywhere – was appointed Minister for Justice and later Minister for Defence.
* Michael Collins…well, you’ve seen the movie. He was Minister for Finance.
*Eamon de Valera … sentenced to death for his part in the 1916 Rising, later Taoiseach and President of Ireland.
The list goes on. So next time Vincent or Gay (isn’t he funny?) or anyone else starts on about McGuinness being in the IRA and how long was he in it, etc, etc, the Derryman should simply repeat those four names and the posts they held until the questioner shuts up. It really is time to end this brainless slinging of mud in the face not just of common sense but history.