1984 and now


As the year limps towards a conclusion, there’s some looking back and some looking forward.

Jim Allister the Traditional Unionist Voice leader, is  a forward-thinking man – in one respect at least.  He’s made that clear with his response to the Stormont House Agreement: “Another few months down the line it will maybe need another bailout and another heap of sticking plaster to keep it [the Assembly] going again. So it doesn’t address the real issue of why Stormont isn’t working and won’t work, because structurally it’s built on sand”. We mightn’t say it but a lot of us quietly think he may have a point.

As I write I’m listening to John Bowman on RTÉ , where he’s talking about the recently-released 1984 papers concerning Anglo-Irish relations. It’s a  fascinating talk, with clips of the political leaders of the time airing  their views. There’s Charlie Haughey’s comment about the change in “the totality of relations” between Ireland and Britain: a comment which drove Thatcher somewhat wild and resulted in the famous “Out, out, out” speech. On her watch, she made clear, there’d be no new arrangement  for Northern Ireland.  Needless to say she was lying through her teeth, for the next year she signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which led eventually to the Good Friday Agreement, which brings us to where we are today.

Which is, according to Jim Allister, an Assembly built on sand. The one phrase that I haven’t heard  from John Bowman  was another of Haughey’s famous phrases, in which he described Northern Ireland as “A failed political entity”. To even suggest that Haughey had a point is to trigger a howl of protest – but consider the facts. It’s thirty years since Thatcher’s “Out, out, out”. Go back from there to any decade since the foundation of the state and you’ll find a large section of the population here either in sullen compliance with the existence of the state or actively involved in trying to change it, some by peaceful means, some by violent. You may conclude that such efforts haven’t succeeded in almost one hundred years and you’d be right. But if you attempt to suggest that since its foundation this state has been a settled place, a successful political entity, you’re asking to be laughed off the stage.

Charlie had his flaws and sins, but he had a keen eye for the reality of situations.

12 Responses to 1984 and now

  1. Patrick J Dorian December 28, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    The French have phrase for it, Probably the Irish too

    • Jude Collins December 28, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

      Well don’t keep it to yourself, PJD. Spill the French beans…

    • PremierMan15 December 29, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

      Plus ca change,plus c’est la meme chose…

  2. Iolar December 28, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

    “Ah it’s such a pity the way things work out in this life. There seem to be bad management somewhere.” (Gourock Ellen)

    I had a dream about Ireland 2015. I had a dream that the past imperfect became the perfect future. A perfect PSNI prevented the stockpiling of tyres and ensured that tyres were disposed of in a manner that did not harm the environment. I dreamed that cherry pickers were used in the construction of integrated schools and shared housing. I dreamed that the Rank Group abandoned gambling projects and provided cash incentives to community activists for the promotion of cultural pursuits through the medium of literacy, poetry and music. I dreamed that the tax payer did not have to bear the burden of the legal costs associated with the plethora of tribunals in the Republic of Ireland. I dreamed that politicians and other individuals earning salaries in excess of 200,000 + 27,000 housing allowance + 5,400 to run the house + 6.564 for each school – age child to cover the cost of education and other bills donated their expenses to Medecins San Frontieres.

    When I awoke I continued reading, “The Untouchables” by Ross and Webb.

  3. Perkin Warbeck December 28, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    After the Christmas Eve truce and kickabout on the astroturf of No Man’s Land between the trenches it is sobering once again to take a reality check just to make sure the world is still the dangerous devil we know the best. Sobering, but reassuring.

    While you were lending an Orwellian ear to RTE, Esteemed Blogmeister, one was taking a deep breath prior to essaying a quick pick at a Yuletide helping of gruel, aka, an editorial in The Unionist Times on the Norneverland talks: ‘The British Prime Minister’s understandable frustration with the brinkmanship of the parties….’.

    Enough said, enough read: Mother Earth is still spinning on the same old axis,which is tilted at an angle of almost 26 degrees (please note) away from the plane of the thingummy, even as she orbits around her favourite son, the Sun. Phew, tis not us who are tilted no longer.

    Decameron (for it is he !) continues in this honourable and long tradition of Mainland PM’s insulting their Free Southern Stateen’s counterparts and – getting away with it.

    -Get me out, out, out of here !

    Being Decameron’s last recorded words as he legged it a la Sebastian and co. across the tarmac of Nutts Corner or whatever the Norneverland’s point of aerial departure for exasperated expats is called these days. (As one is in doubt whether the apostrophe should come before or after the ‘s’ in Nutts so, contrary to the best practice manual of aerosol sprayers, it is best to leave it out).

    And cause a diversion by lapsing into verse:

    ‘Draconian Etonians eavesdrop from one Cotswold
    To see top Crops won’t loosen One’s stranglehold
    ‘Tis a familiar old story
    Bestow power on a Tory
    And he’ll even beg Roaring Meg to be his centrefold.

    Speaking of the Cotswolds: located of the edge of which is, of course, Cheltenham, home of the Sport of Kings. And the SoK correspondent of The Unionist Times is a chap called Brian O’Connor, a favourite phrase of whose caught Perkie’s inner Hawkeye over the Restive Season.

    This Brian O’Connor is not to be confused with that Brendan O’Connor of the Sunday Independent Cult (sic) though one might be pardoned for so doing. Both BOC’s are thoroughbred Corkonians who have it in for the ‘Gaelic thingy’ and not shy, like, in expressing their BOCety take on same. Drisheen for the shoneens, like.It is understood Big Chief Crooked Mouth might well be a snaking regarder of both BOC’s.

    In his most recent race course of a piece on ‘sporting personalities running for election’ BOCsy can be seen to use the racist whip in a low-intensity kind of way. As caught on camera in the derisive term ‘true Gael’. This is in keeping with the wobbly he threw earlier in the year about the naming rights of the GAA club in Dungiven, Co. Londonderry.

    Perkie’s inner Paddy Power is currently opening a book and laying odds that in the run up to the Cesarewitch in Newmarket in October 2015 the sensitive pacifist that is BOC, the SoK corr of TUT, will be flailing away with his furled brolly.

    At all those handicapped opponents who claim that the Tsar Alexander who first sponsored the race back in 18 Forgotten was a group one tsarrorist and who also like to claim that the first horse to win this race was called, erm, ‘Cruiskeen’.

    That would be 2 miles, 2 furlongs na gCopaleen. So, that’s alright, then.

    Before heading for the compulsory drug testing room Perkie’s inner jockey in the silk of Lord Milkwood, would like to note the sad passing of two wonderful ladies in the run up to Yuletide: Mandy and Millie. Curiously, one dealt with a PM while another with a King.

    Mandy being, of course, Mandy Rice-Davies the crispy colleen who was all woman, i.e., who loved to shop till she dropped. When Mandy was good she was very good, but when she was bad, she went to Harrod’s. She would etc.

    When Mandy was in her prime, the PM was Harold M, whose cabinet she caused to wobble, if not fall. A later PM whose initial was also M was a keen shopper too. Though Harrod’s was not her Department Store of choice. Maggie (for it is she!) preferred to do her spot of retail therapy at Mega Munitions Markets. Where M and M also differed was, while Mandy did her own shopping and dropping, when Maggie shopped it was others, overwhelmingly men,who dropped.

    Millie was the great Millie Kirkham. Her name might be only known to Perkie’s inner anorak and a few sad others like him, but her glorious voice is known to the masses. For yonks, if not Yanks, she was the go-to gal in Nashville,Tn when it came to backing singers.Greats like Gentleman Jim Reeves and the Big O found her indispensable.

    Her trilling soprano was in every shop and all over the shop over the Christmas. As it is gach Nollaig/every Chrimbo.

    When the King, aka Elvis P, was asked by RCA to record that tuneful piece of ear candy ‘A Blue Christmas’ he was reluctant to do so as a friend of his had already recorded it. When pressurised, the King decided to sabotage the project by requesting his band and backing singers to come up with a jokey version.

    It was the magnificent Millie who came up with the iconic ‘woo-hoo-woo-hoo’ chorus line. Of course, it went on to become a classic.

    Perhaps, there is a lesson to be learned there by the slow learners in the Sunday Independent Cult. Their demonising of the Shinners might well have the opposite effect.

    Call it the Millie (no fada over the first ‘i’) effect.

    • Jude Collins December 28, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

      Perkie! How good to hear your voice coming through the post-Yuletide mist! Thank you for introducing me to Millie and thank you for remembering that perkiest (nothing personal) of women, Mandy who said as well as did it best. But then she would say\do that, wouldn’t she?

      • Perkin Warbeck December 29, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

        Yes, indeed, Esteemed Blogmeister, Millie Kirkham was one of those great unsung heroes of the music industry.

        Without whose honeyed soprano in the background such songs as Pretty Woman, Poetry in Motion, Anna Marie, Back in Baby’s Arms, He Stopped Loving her Today ad almost infinitum would not have sounded quite the same.

        Any caterwauling cranberry (aisy on the sauce, sis !) or bald-headed banshee of an ullagoning bishop can make it as a ‘lead singer’ but you have to have a voice to cut the mustard as a backing singer.

  4. Neill December 28, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    Ah Charles Haughey good old Charles a man of flawed pedigree using him to back up your argument made me almost fall out of my sofa next thing you will tell is that SF have not back tracked in their opposition to welfare cuts….

    • Jude Collins December 28, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

      Ah Neill – good to know you’ve survived the rigours of Yuletide. Ever consider the possibility that people are neither totally good or bad but a mixture – in varying degrees – of both?

  5. Antonio December 29, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    C.Haughey was of course on the ball with his ‘failed political entity’ assessment of Northern Ireland.

    Of course it still is a failed political entity as Jim Allister frequently articulates quite well. Obviously when Allister rants about the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the Stormont set-up he is unable to see that Northern Ireland has always been fundamentally undemocratic. And Allister’s inability to see the real meanings of his often accurate assessment of government at Stormont is a microcosm of why Northern Ireland is so fundamentally flawed.
    Unionism is unable to do what is necessary to save the Union and that is sell the Union to Catholics. Not one or two Catholics but tens of thousands perhaps hundreds of thousands must be converted to the Union in order for partition to survive in the long term.
    Unionism’s inability to acknowledge its own failings is a significant reason why Northern Ireland is a failed political entity. All Unionism can do is blame republicans.

    • paddykool December 29, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

      Yes Antonio . It really is as plain as the nose on the proverbial .For the union to continue to exist it will take quite some future conversion of non unionist thinking nationalists to bolster up the falling unionist majority. I heard Dodds on the radio this morning crying that the unionists need to stick together . They are such a diverse lot though that it seems an impossibility long -term. As sure as this stumbling semi-democracy stumbles along …almost evenly balanced …and violence is kept at bay , there will be no glue to hold them together .What they really need is another guldering rabble -rouser to scare the bejabers out of them at some Big Rally. That might perk them up for a bit.

      • Antonio December 29, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

        Unionist political leaders are somewhat damned if they do and damned if they don’t. I would almost feel sorry for them if they weren’t such hateful people. I think Robinson probably realises there is a need to attract Catholics to the Union but he does not know how to achieve this vital aim. Because to attract Catholics to the Union would inevitably lead to more splits within Unionism. Simultaneously, to continue with the traditional method of Uniting Unionism – i.e unity in the face of the Republican/Catholic enemy will also divide unionism, as more Protestants start to think a united Ireland is not such a threat.
        So what are they to do ?? What they should be doing is preparing their people for the possibility of Unity and ensuring the best possible deal for unionists under a new constitutional arrangement. There is little indication that Unionist leaders have such foresight. They seem to have convinced themselves that there are huge numbers of Catholics out there that are covert Unionists. The Belfast telegraph is keen to tell unionism this is the case. It is like they believe their own propaganda to such an extent that it is very detrimental for them. It’s like they actually believe that Sinn Fein has a Stalinist grip on Catholics in N.I and that is the reason people vote for them.