Last night in the Wellie Park Hotel


It’s a tricky job writing about the man who hires you to write a weekly column; but since there are people who think every word I write stinks of bias anyway ( i.e., my political  thinking differs from theirs) there’s little to lose. Last night I was at the launch of Mairtin O Muilleoir’s campaign for the South Belfast Westminster seat and it was a heady experience.

The first thing that struck me was that the lazy old dictum “They’re all the same” simply isn’t true. There were three speakers – the Sinn Féin vice-president Mary Lou McDonald, the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the Sinn Féin candidate for South Belfast, Mairtin O Muilleoir – and not once  did they descend to the ya-sucks-boo curry-my-yoghurt standard of political speech-making. The nearest any speaker got to criticising political opponents was when Martin McGuinness noted that in the wake of his three meetings with Queen Elizabeth, not one unionist politician approached him to say “That was a good thing you did”. Other than that, the emphasis was on pressing forward with reconciliation and the creation of new jobs for Belfast.

They were a formidable trio of speakers. All three spoke without notes and at some length. McDonald and McGuinness projected confidence and poise, which is hardly surprising since the room was stuffed with Sinn Féin supporters. Ó Muilleoir too was fluent and projected quick-talking energy, a man impatient to get working on the things he outlined. Which were?

Jobs.  He emphasised his closeness with Irish-America and the possibilities that held for investment and jobs in Belfast. He spoke of education and his hopes for the raising of standards among young Protestant boys in particular. He spoke of his hopes for a new Belfast that’d be inclusive of diversity, that’d allow people to live lives free of sectarianism and want. And he spoke of his hope that the SDLP candidate for the South Belfast seat, Alasdair McDonnell, would meet him in public debate so that the electorate could see what both candidates had to offer.

Will his hopes be realised? Well not that last one. There’s as much chance that Alasdair McDonnell will put his lumbering speech-making skills against the fluency and drive of O Muilleoir than of Ronnie Regan  having breakfast with me tomorrow.

“But but but” you splutter. “The Shinners don’t take their seats – what’s the point in electing them?” Ó Muilleoir had that one covered with a reference to Pat Doherty’s work in getting the Lisanelly army base in Omagh closed and the creation of a new site for schools where children would learn to share across traditional divisions. Although the sad emptiness of the Westminster chamber when a matter dealing with here is being debated shows you how interested British MPs are in anything to do with own dear little, sweet little colony.

Will Ó Muilleoir win the seat? He will if enough people vote for him. Will Gerry Kelly win in North Belfast?  The numbers are there – he will if enough people vote for him.

Last night was an exhilarating experience – there was a sense of a party excited, united and on the move. Even more exhilarating is the thought of 7 May next, when our future will be  literally in our hands. Time to quit whining about your politicians. If you don’t like ‘em, change ‘em.

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9 Responses to Last night in the Wellie Park Hotel

  1. RJC February 6, 2015 at 10:46 am #

    It’s possible that the DUP may win East and North Belfast in May. It’s also possible that they may win neither.

    Win or lose, what is clear however is the sheer gulf in attitudes, professionalism and ability between Sinn Féin and the DUP. Can you imagine the DUP ever talking about raising the educational standards of Catholic boys? The DUP don’t give a damn about education, jobs, health, investment or any of the ‘grown up’ issues we expect our politicians to address. No, it’s simply a case of keeping themmuns out. With a bit of fleg thrown in for good measure. They’re an absolute disgrace.

    Whatever happens in May, the DUP remain mired in the past. Playing at politics and engaging in the basest form of ussuns/themmuns behaviour. Sooner or later, they’re just going to get left behind.

  2. neill February 6, 2015 at 10:57 am #

    Your weekly column is a safe as houses after that puff piece.

    Still no harm brown nosing the boss ; )

    Hope he does well though and eats into the SDLP vote….

    • Jude Collins February 6, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

      You are a coarse fellow, neill. Who do you work for?

  3. Iolar February 6, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    Tá an ceart agat. The realpolitik sounded refreshing, realistic, relevant and reasonable. As nature abhors a vacuum, ‘The View’ featured Paul Givan’s feeble, flawed and factious conscience clause. What will it be next, locked parks on Sundays because a staff member is a conscientious objector? Mr Givan continues to evade giving direct answers to direct questions about his conscience clause. At a time when University courses are being withdrawn, public sector jobs are under threat and younger people are forced to seek work far from home, Mr Givan is attempting the impossible, to turn the clock back for us all. Questions have been posed about the ability of younger politicians to create a pluralist, progressive, multicultural society. Mr Givan is not one of them.

  4. Perkin Warbeck February 6, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    ‘Holy Cow, sin ceann mor !’ was the macaronic title of a book in kickass leprechaun back in the minefield of the unanointed Nineties.

    Its author was one, Mairtin O Muilleoir and its illustrator was the one-man Charlie Hebdo of cartooning, Irish style:Doll. In unreal life, Doll was actually Flann O Riain who came from the Eamon an Chnoic/ Ned of the Hill barrio of rural Tipperary,not all that long ago.

    Flann O Riain is not to be confused with Flann O Brien, late of The Unionist Times. Whereas Flainn O Riain in the guise of Doll made the D.O.P.E.s and their Doppelgangers his prime target of choice, Flann O Brien was the Great Green Hope of the D.O.P.E.s, i.e., one who had tried leprechaun….and found it wanting.

    Whereas Flann O Riain spent some time in chokey for one-fingering the RTE policy of pushing the D.O.P.E (Demonisers of Pearse’s Eireland) line in one lingering language matters, the records show that Flann O Brien was unacquainted with the interior decor of Mountjoy Jail, one Monday and all other mornings.

    Or, to put it another way, there was never much chance that Mairitn would have chosen Martyn to illustrate his book. Martyn, being the cartoonist Turner who pays his dues in the parish of The Unionist Times. And whose English-nurtured style certainly packs a, erm, Punch when it comes to caricaturing the Shinners. TUT likes its illustrious illustrators to keep their Ys up front.

    It is difficult for those of a certain vintage, like, regrettably, Perkie’s outer Warbeckian wrinkly, to see the name of Mairtin O Muilleoir and not to think of another one of similar name: Mitch O Muilleoir.

    Curiously enough, both members of Na O Muilleoiri contain echoes of the Big Apple (one having come from the Big Orange) and both are seemingly fixated on the F-word: Flann.

    In the mid Fifties (oh, the fugitiy of tempus !) Mitch O Muilleoir,knocked ‘Rock around the Clock’ off its perch with this snare-drumming , square-bashing ballad whose chorus went:

    ‘She’s the sweetest little rosebud that Texas ever knew
    Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew
    You may talk about your Clementine or sing of Rosa Lee
    But the Yellow Rose of Texas is the only girl for me’.

    And here’s where the Flann comes into play:the eponymous yeller rose was a gal name of Emily D. West, a biracial indentured servant who blagged her way into the tent of the Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. There she managed to canoodle long enough for El Gen to take his ojo off the cojonesa and long enough for General Sam Houston to scoop the Super Bowl at the non-Battle of San Jacinto.

    Thereby, ensuring for all time, or for the time being at least, that this mulatto maiden of a ‘high-kicking yeller’ which appealed to the fellers, will remain the X-rated letter in TeXas.

    ‘Flann’ of course being short for Flannbhui or yeller in the leprechaun. Could this be an omen of things to come in the Deep South of Beal Feirste where the clock is being played down for the Fir Bhui/ Orange Men?

    Will Mairtin emulate his namesake Mitch and knock ‘Rock around the Clock’ off its perch? Whether time will tell, tis possible time for somebody to tell William about the Big Apple.

    To conclude with ‘Is mise Flann’: he too received the hand’s off. treatment on the Late, Late Show, that Auntie Septic treatment especially reserved for the impure of heart and unclean of limb.

    This treatment is defined in the very late, latest edition of the Miriam O’ Webster’s dictionary as ‘coprophilia’ and is not at all to be confused with another identical word, also spelled ‘coprophilia’.

    The latter word is the most popular weapon in the extensive anti-Sinn Fein arsenal of the Free Southern Stateen media. Its crucial component is the intellectually distinguished dragging up of the names of fallen Gardai whenever the Shinners begin to show well in the democratic opinion polls. This is when the organs of record and non-record alike O.D. on the O.D. tactic. (The latter O.D.standing for ‘Officer Down’).

    One was reminded of both c-words last Monday when Ray The Arcey opened his new mid-aftermath wireless show on RTE by having as first guest, Gay (by name) Byrne. Poignancy was added to this moving interview by the knowledge that the host was just embarking on a new 500,000 squids a year slot while the guest of honour was just emerging from a 500,000 squids loss in the property investment lottery. (His late, latest !)

    Where both converged however was in their tartan track records: both in their day had done numbers on the Twin Towers of S.F.

    Now, which version of ‘coprophilia’ they indulged in during the momentous Monday show, must remain a secret (almost nobody was listening, apart from the Warbeckian inner masochistic eavesdropper) but a clue might divined in the following cryptic code: the proximity of the host’s surname and his guest’s given name.

    As leideanna / clues go: ‘Holy Cow, sin ceann mor !’.

  5. Brian Patterson February 6, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    With regard to the dynamism of the SDLP at Westminster, I noticed this morning that 4 British Westminster MPs, Labour and Lub-Dem have tabled a motion calling on Channel 4 not to show a sit-com centred on the Irish famine. No SDLP involvement apparent. Dr. McDonnell is a disaster. However from what I have read of Mairtín he has bought the neo-liberal agenda. If I were in South Belfast he might just get my vote but ‘faute de mieux’.

  6. boondock February 6, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

    For once I think SF are making a mess of strategy. Mom is a very capable guy and more important in elections is actually very likeable. The problem is he is standing in south Belfast where he has no chance of winning. Likewise the assembly Is being cut down to 5 MLA’s per constituency so again no hope of picking up an extra seat there. Now here is the thing Gerry Kelly keeps closing on dodds but he is unlikely to win because no matter how much several thousand sdlp and Alliance voters hate dodds they just cant bring themselves to put an x next to Gerrys name, but if mom was standing here I doubt they would have the same dilemma.

  7. Ryan February 6, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

    Mairtin is a great asset for Sinn Fein, hes forward looking and very likable. He’s also a very successful businessman who knows how to bring jobs to Ireland. His attitude and relationship with Irish America is exactly what ALL Irish people and political parties should be encouraging and developing, we have much, much more in common with Boston than Berlin (that’s not to say we shouldn’t have closer relations with our European neighbours, obviously we should). The Irish diaspora, not only in the USA, but worldwide offers massive potential for Ireland, politicians and the Irish public should be doing more to encourage more formal ties to the Irish diaspora worldwide.

  8. RJC February 7, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    Ooh look! It would appear another All-Ireland party has entered the fray

    Nothing may come of it, but fair play to them for actually going for it as opposed to Fianna Fáil’s méar fhada approach to the North. Things are starting to get interesting…