It gets more like the plot of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta with every day. Or maybe a chapter from Alice in Wonderland. First we’re told that Gerry Adams made a speech in Enniskillen where he talked about achieving equality and the people in the DUP who are resisting this. He referred to them as ‘bananas’. No, only kidding. He called them ‘bastards’, but our media, sensitive to the ears and eyes of their Aunt Agatha, like to call it ‘the b- word’. Mark Devenport was on Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster this morning explaining he wouldn’t say the full word because of the time of day.
Now it appears that there’s another b- word out there – this one used by Michelle Gildernew. This b is not for butler or British or Bohemian. At least I’m guessing it’s not, because Mark Devenport wouldn’t say it either, it being so early in the morning. But I’m going to take a wild guess and say it was b for bollocks. She said that these, what’s the plural, I suppose bollockses, would have to be moved out of their comfort zone and into an equality zone.
Stand by for unionist outrage. To use one b- word is regrettable; to use two looks like carelessness, as Oscar Wilde nearly said. What’s very Alice-in-Wonderlandish is that, although we haven’t heard unionist reaction yet, if it’s anything like that in reaction to Gerry Adams’s bastards remark, the outrage will be directed at the bollocks bit and the e-word (equality, Virginia, equality – try to keep up) will be ignored. Personally, I’d be more upset at being called a bigot or a racist than I would to being called a bastard. I know I’m not a bastard and I’ve the birth certificate to prove it; and if I were a bastard, it would be something totally beyond my control. But bigot or racist or homophobe – yes, that would be within my control and I think I’d prefer not to have people talk about me under those terms. Interesting, that unionist politicians have chosen not to dispute their resistance to equality, just their wrath at being called bananas and now Bohemians …sorry, mixed up for a minute there. Bastards and bollockses.
One final twist to it all: as unionist politicians rage against the improper language, in their view, of their opponents, suddenly out of the blue comes news this morning of the arrest of leading republican Bobby Storey in connection with the killing in the 1970s of Jean McConville. The last time someone was arrested for that killing it was Gerry Adams, who was held for four days, released and went on to lead Sinn Féin’s successful election campaign in the south. The general belief is that republican voters came out then because they were enraged by what they saw as political policing. Now, with the Westminster run-in starting immediately after Christmas, as Peter Robinson himself has pointed out, another prominent republican is arrested in connection with the same death. But of course there’s no suggestion this is political policing to placate unionists.
I did say Jean McConville, a mother of eight. Not to be confused with Joan Connolly, also a mother of eight. No one has been arrested for her killing. But then that was done by the British Parachute regiment in 1971, so there’ d be no record or documentation of any kind relating to any soldier involved in her death or any of the other ten killed along with her. Still, it could be worse. Someone could have called the Ballymurphy families bastards or bollockses.