I see where my old stable-mate and fellow-baldy at the VO, Brian Feeney, is getting cross with Gerry Adams. Very cross. He says Gerry spoke to an audience in Co Derry and he misled them. Apparently he told them that Owen Paterson had dismissed the possibility of a border poll; Brian says the Good Friday Agreement says Paterson can’t do that and so it was misleading for Gerry to say that he had – Pay attention at the back there, please! – dismissed it. Brian is even crosser with Gerry because he says Gerry left West Belfast as impoverished as he found it several decades ago. And there’s more: Gerry’s not being specific enough about what kind of united Ireland he and Sinn Féin want.
Brian’s a good columnist – unlike quite a few, he’s readable – but with the ‘he left it as he found it’ charge against the Sinn Féin president, he’s beginning to sound like one of these school-league-table zealots: School X is useless, it doesn’t get half as many A*s as School Y. Never mind what School X has to cope with in terms of poverty, neglect and grammar-school-cream-off in the first place. The truth is, our MPs carry zero political clout at Westminster. All of them. Has Derry, represented by John Hume for decades, or Ballymena, represented by Ian Paisley for decades, been a boom town over the years? Attend Westminster, abstain from Westminster – it doesn’t matter a monkey’s, Britain does what she pleases. So yes, West Belfast is a hard-pressed area, just like lots of other places. Been to North Belfast recently, Brian? Or West Tyrone?
As to the “What kind of united Ireland?” charge: I thought that’s what we were all supposed to be working towards together- the nationalist people in the north, the unionist people in the north and the mixed bag of people in the south? Coming up with an agreed Ireland, not going on solo runs and telling others how it should be. Brian cites admiringly the New Ireland Forum which came up with its “blueprint for a united Ireland” thirty years ago. Right. And that’s made terrific progress, hasn’t it?
But hey – ain’t nothing like a bit of Shinner-bashing to get the blood surging among a certain class of readers. Some newspapers depend on it for their circulation.