I’m sitting listening to Billy Hutchinson saying that he doesn’t know who put the Union flags up in South Belfast and that anyway, the people who did so didn’t cause any breach of the peace, it was the people who reacted to this flag erection who caused or might cause a breach of the peace.
I have some sympathy with you, Billy. It sometimes does seem ridiculous that a piece of cloth can be the proverbial red rag to a bull. What we need is a society where the motto is “Put Out More Flags”. Where the flying of flags adds colour and gaiety to what otherwise might be a grey street or a grim building. And I’m looking forward to the Irish flag being flown on 18 designated days from Belfast City Hall, from the flagpole at Stormont and on the buildings used by the eleven new super-councils. As you say, Billy, it’s not the people who put up the flag who are in breach of the peace. It’s the reaction of others to it.
All of which distracts me from my main topic this morning, which is (yes again, Virginia) the treatment of Gerry Adams by the southern media. Before the recent elections the south’s media were full of concern for the leadership of Sinn Féin, that Gerry Adams was a past-his-sell-by-date on the party’s progress in the south, and until someone like Mary Lou McDonald took over, the Shinners’ progress would be limited. Then we had the elections and Sinn Féin under Adams’s leadership shot from being a small player in the south’s politics to being a main player – in fact the largest political party in Ireland and, according to post-election polls, the party most trusted with economic matters. Eeek. Something needed to be done. Step forward, Colm Keena, Irish Times columnist.
Because Colm has written a book and in the course of flogging it, he has done a column in Wednesday’s Irish Times headed ‘Questions about Gerry Adams’s motivation remain’. In it, he blames the change of the peaceful demonstrations by the civil rights movement into the campaign of violence by the IRA on… well, on Gerry Adams. As a republican, he was always wedded to violence and he and his like infected the civil rights movement. By way of proof a short story written by Adams is cited, a story about an IRA volunteer and a hedgehog (you heard me, Virgiinia) which Colm says is “enormously sentimental”. “Maybe in real life he [Adams] lay in bed at night in Belfast safe houses while around him in the city people mourned their maimed and dead and young British soldiers patrolled the streets, and he thought the whole scenario romantic”
Well maybe indeed, Colm. Or maybe the batoning of civil rights marchers off the streets had something to do with it. Or maybe Gerry Adams took his life in his hands along with others like Martin McGuinness and did the thing that so many southern politicians and media hacks had been calling on the IRA to do: abandoned political violence and sought an electoral mandate. John Hume took political risks for peace, Gerry Adams took life-and-death risks for peace.
But all of that’s not good enough for Colm. He figures Gerry still hankers after a united Ireland ( the cheek of him!) and so “his stated allegiance to democratic politics is subservient to this dream”. Next we know, Colm says, Adams will be trying to justify the IRA’s campaign of the 1970s and 1980s. “People who voted Sinn Féin need to pay serious heed to these dangers”.
Begod, Colm, you were a terrible loss to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, do you know that? Cardinal Cahal Daly himself couldn’t have put it better. The public have been warned.