Eoghan and Albert and what might have been


I see my old chum and gambling opponent Eoghan Harris is an unhappy man. Not that he ever was one for making with the happy face, but in today’s Sindo  he’s really cross. It has to do with the easy ride he believes was given to Albert Reynolds at his funeral (Albert’s, not Eoghan’s). There was indeed much talk at the time of the work of Albert (with John  Major) , and the Downing Street Declaration and how it paved the way to the Good Friday Agreement. There was also some talk, in particular from Albert’s family, of his vilification by political opponents. 

Eoghan doesn’t like that. No, no, no,  he says. If you’re a politician you’re not vilified – your actions are scrupulously analysed and if necessary criticised. Eoghan does a lot of criticising in his column today. He criticises RTÉ: “They carried on as if Sinn Féin’s credentials should be exempt from examination and acted as cheerleaders.” EH? You’re having us on, Eoghan, surely. I mean, R.T.É?  Tell that to Martin McGuinness, whose presidential bid was hobbled by televised Troubles victims leaping out and accusing him of every sin in the catechism. And who could forget Miriam O’Callaghan’s “Have you been to confession?” question during the presidential debate? Or expunge the  more recent RTÉ image of  Enda Kenny and his front bench responding to  Sinn Féin questions on the economy with indignant reminders that the IRA did little for the northern economy. No, Eoghan, I don’t think you’re on a winner there. It was different when there were, um, different political philosophies in place in RTÉ. Then  RTÉ reporters like Mary McAleese were pilloried off-air for  daring to sound positive about northern nationalism, let alone republicanism. And of course  in the good old RTÉ days it was against the law to broadcast any member of Sinn Féin. Even if they wanted to talk about the best way to grow mushrooms.

Like many’s another,  Eoghan wishes that a more thoroughly bad time had been given to the Shinners  back then. “Eventually the Provisonal IRA would have been eroded by arrests and convictions in Northern Ireland. They would have been worn down to where the Dissidents are now.” Mmm. Interesting projection of an alternative future. Made a bit more unlikely by the fact that every British military commentator has conceded that at the time of the ceasefires, there was an acceptance that a stalemate existed. The IRA couldn’t push the British armed forces out of Ireland and the British armed forces couldn’t crush the IRA. Hence the ceasefires. Eoghan, bless him, believes that republicans “were on the ropes, militarily and politically, north and south”.  A bit like Maggie Thatcher’s famous depiction of the republican Hunger Strike of 1981: “The last sting of a dying wasp”.

Politically at that time, Sinn Féin had begun a long march that would take them from nothing to becoming the dominant nationalist party in the north – and soon, maybe , the biggest northern party of any stripe.  In the south, the party went from 2% of the vote to what they are today:  a major political player. Even though it sticks in Eoghan’s craw he admits  this to be the case. He even opens the appalling vista of Gerry Adams being Taoiseach after the next election, if a rotating system is adopted. If that doesn’t frighten the southern horses, nothing will.

The trouble with Eoghan is where he starts from. The IRA during the Troubles were engaged in “naked tribal aggression” and to say otherwise is “a huge historical lie”.  He’s very upset because Albert Reynolds “gambled” and talked with Sinn Féin:  who knows where that gamble of his will end? It’s given legitimacy to Sinn Féin, Eoghan says, and “it may put them in power. Who really knows what that means for the Irish Republic?”

Well you know Eoghan, I’d have thought its meaning was obvious. It means the exercise of something you’ve not mentioned in your column: democracy.  Republicans for years were urged to follow  an exclusively political path. They’ve done so and it seems the people north and south quite like having them as their representatives. Their political progress may be greeted with huzzahs or lamentation, but  it’ll mean that the Irish people have given them an increased mandate.  The cheeky devils.

12 Responses to Eoghan and Albert and what might have been

  1. Joe McVeigh August 31, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    Mr Harris ignorance extends to his abysmal understanding of the history and politics of the conflict here and to his frequent misrepresentation and vilification of those who have worked tirelessly to bring peace to this troubled land. Mr Harris pro-unionist stance shows that he has no time for democracy when the results do not go his way.

    • William Fay August 31, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

      Something like your own joe, and how you reject anything that might resemble Unionist or British. Maybe if you had spent less time lauding IRA killers! and stuck to your own role, we might not have been in such a state.

  2. Seán McGouran August 31, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    The Shinners are probably heartily glad Harris is an opponent. Look at the trail of disasters he’s left in his wake. The Stickies / WPI reduced to a Leninist rump, the ‘Progos’ (Progressive [?] Democrats vanished without trace, the ‘Official’ Unionists eclipsed by the wicked Paisleyites. He led a quite hysterical campaign against Mary McAleese’s Presidential campaign. That was a great victory of anti-‘Northern Catholic’ misogynists, wasn’t it? He hates Northern Naturalists, whose response to him has been amused contempt.

  3. peadarmor August 31, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    I doubt Jim Molyneax should’ve included Partitionism when he said that the IRA cease fire was the most destabilising thing to happen to Unionism. Good article as usual Jude.

  4. Mick Early August 31, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    Or as Toy Mason said “we’re squeezing the IRA like a tube of toothpaste”. I think that was in ’73? Still not been squeezed! Hahaha! And Mason is pushing daisies!

  5. philip kelly August 31, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    it should always be remembered that harris worked with the unionist party of trimble and by association with the orange order as the uup are the political wing of that anti catholic/ irish bigoted organisation with connections with the uvf and uda , and who led the opposition,and the ulster workers strike to the power sharing sunningdale agreement so the no principled harris should examine his own actions and how he helped to extent the war by his support of the violence the unionist and the british imposed on the nationalist people of the north, which led to the death of so many people, the same can and should be highlighted by historians of how the hatred of the republicans by the southern/ free state governments also joined in union with the british to maintain the status quo, and the impose the continuing suffering on the catholic people of the north , and i know the suffering as i was one of the suffers who stood up and said no more and if the free state don’t do it we will do it ourselves no more b special,s/ ruc no more burning of catholic homes no more orange state no more discrimination, when faced with violence and guns of a undemocratic statelet where are your options especially as we tried the peaceful way only to be beaten of the street by the said ruc and b specials . these are facts the people like harris and his fellow travellers want to forget to excuse their own conscience
    Eoghan and Albert and what might have been

  6. Perkin Warbeck August 31, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    There are just two quibbles regarding today’s post, Esteemed Blogmeister: the designation of ‘Eoghan Harris’ as ‘Eoghan Harris’ and the designation of his organ as the ‘Sindo’. This is, of course, the most fingered and thumbed (f.a.t.) organ in the Free Southern Stateen as they themselves claim, and who would know that better than themselves?

    Of course, there are difficulties with the first designation, not least because of the conflicting claims of two not entirely inappropriate alternatives: ‘Bomber’ and ‘Chopper’.

    With the designation of his organ there is no such problem: it ought be simply called by, the initials of its full title: S.I.

    PW came to this conclusion after reading a fascinating paper penned by the world acclaimed anthropologist, the late Professor Eyelash O’Handjob, PhD of the University of Biloxi whose speciality was in the filed of global ‘cults’ and alas, sadly, no longer with us.

    This paper was penned after a field visit to the Free Southern Stateen a few years ago: she preferred to use the term ‘Emerald Isle’ on account of the ruling class she found here – the Emerald Tree Boa. Boa being the initialdom for ‘British Oirish Association’. She wrote:

    ‘To my surprise, but not to the surprise of Dubliners, Lower Abbey Street is the centre of the cult culture in the Emerald Isle. For on this street are located the two most powerful cults in the state: on one side of this inner city thru’way stands the Church of Scientology and on the other is located the Sunday Independent, eyeballing across at each other like an estranged couple: Hubbard and Wifi.

    Dubliners are not unfamiliar with the experience of being ‘harrassed’ on either sidewalk by over-zealous recruits from these competing cults. One uses the ‘h’ word advisedly. Thus, it is entirely understandable that many Dubliners tend to give the street a wide berth.

    In their zeal to out-recruit the other one cult tends to cherrypick from the other. L. Ron Hubbard, as is widely known, was the founder of the Church of Scientology but what is not so widely known is that the L stands for Lafayette.

    Thus, for a time the Sunday Independent chose as an advertising slogan ‘Sunday ‘Twitter ye Not’ Independent but as the sales of the organ began to drop/droop this tactic was quietly abandoned. ‘No one was laughing yet’, was the cryptic explanation.

    The L. Ron Hubbard of the Sunday Independent,. as it were, was the exotically named Aengus ‘Fanny’ Fanning. In my naivety as an Irish American (wrote Prof Emeritus E. O’Handjob, deceased) I assumed that the nickname was derived from the Celtic firstname. Alas, while ‘fanny; to us Americans refers to that part of the anatomy upon which we like to sit , not so in the Emerald Isle where things are not often what they seem. Say no more.

    The number of female fans among the staff of the Sunday Independent cult were, what has been described to me as ‘ thick on the ground’ and as one of them recorded in a memorable memoir: ‘ Our founder was a fabulous vision in 40 shades of brown. Every week he would appear at the weekly editorial meeting attired from top to toe in his favourite colour: his floppy auburn hair a-flop, from the desert-sand collars of his shirt, from which his raw umber tie dangled down through a burnt sienna waistcoat beneath his tawny jacket on down to his field drab corduroys, under which his masculine thighs bulged, down, down to his de rigeur burgundy brogues and in the six inches of space between trouser turn up and shoe could be spotted his not insignificantly fawn-shaded socks’.

    -Alright, galley slaves !, he would humorously boom, ‘what part of the Provo bovo are we going to carve up for our Sunday roast this week?’

    His accent was stil ltouchingly coloured by the turf-tinted shades of his native Tralee while in his large hands he nursed a cricket ball, a symbol of his favourite game and a reminder of just how far he had come.’

    As an anthropologist with a particular interest in cults all my working life I can honestly say that He was the one who really knocked me for six.’

    Thus, was the normally staid anthropologist reduced to rather less than academic terminology.

    She entitled her paper thus: ‘Where two cults collide: The Church of SCI versus the S.I.’.

  7. paul August 31, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    Damned if you damned iof you don’t. That sums up the quandry for SF, they were told they must go political , did so and are now vilfied. Mr Kenny should realize he has many more pressing matters than blaming SF for every malady under the sun. Mr harris would make a great DUP member, squealing for ‘democracy” unless they don’t get their way.

  8. Iolar August 31, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    “The old green refrain?” is not pleasing to the ear of the writer given his chorus of disapproval and curfá.
    “In Northern Ireland their command structure was penetrated by informers at every level.”
    There seems to have been a bit of reflux in the wind section, given the need to tell readers once more, “In the North their command structure was riddled with informers.”
    In his reference to the Provos, the writer states, “In the Republic they were held in hatred and contempt by most decent people.” Not a scientific statement and one must take issue with the writer’s epistemology. How did he arrive at his conclusion?
    My friend was just driving off and I was able to return the newspaper. Three strikes and he is out.

  9. Argenta August 31, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

    You seem to have an ambiguous attitude towards Eoghan. You profess to abhor his articles in the Sindo but yet he was one of that select group of people interviewed by you for your last book.Obviously as defender of Sinn Fein on most occasions,you will be at odds with Eoghan on articles such as this but presumably you would admit he’s never less than interesting!

    • Jude Collins September 1, 2014 at 7:46 am #

      No, Argenta, I’m afraid you’re misreading this. I have a high regard for Eoghan in that he literally pays his gambling debts. I am totally opposed to most of his political thinking but I am totally in favour of his being allowed to articulate those views. I interviewed Ian Paisley Jr and Gregory Campbell and others for the book: I don’t agree with them politically either but I think it’s vital that their voices should be heard. Besides which, as individuals I like both Eoghan and Gregory.