Brace yourselves. Just as politicians with an eye on Westminster have started getting in some serious shadow-boxing, so too those with an eye to boosting their favoured party via the media have pulled out the singlet and wriggled into the shorts. (No, no boxing gloves involved, Virginia. This is bare-knuckle stuff we’re talking here.)
And bounding out of the Sindo blue corner yesterday morning we had none other than my old classmate and friend, Ruth Dudley Edwards! Ruthie has her gimlet eye fixed on Martin McGuinness and musha, doesn’t she first thing land one square in the Deputy First Minister’s solar plexus and another on his jaw: of, ouch, and take that, you cad. Thats because like Padraig Pearse, Ruthie says, Martin McGuinness is a liar. How so? Let’s take her case against Pearse first.
The leader of the 1916 Rising is said to have sent all sorts of dispatches to groups involved in the Rising, telling them that reinforcements were on their way from other parts of the country, the Germans would help, their cause was destined to triumph. Lies, of course. Untruths. Misrepresentation.
As for McGuinness? Well, McGuinness has said that the next three elections – the one to Westminster in May 2015, the one to Stormont in May 2016 and the one to the Dail sometime inside the next twelve months: these represent a great opportunity to take a giant step towards a united Ireland.
Tosh, says Ruthie (yes, she does live in London, Virginia). Stuff and nonsense. “Only a tiny minority” of the Irish people want a united Ireland, So Martin is pissing against the wind. (I paraphrase, of course. Ruthie doesn’t use that kind of language.) In other words, Martin McGuinness is also a liar.
Well, Ruthie is no doubt an expert on Pearse, having written A Book about him, so he may well have said these things about reinforcements etc. Had she been in Pearse’s shoes (hard to imagine but still), she presumably would have told followers the truth: we’re all banjaxed. And yet, and yet. I was watching a programme about Ireland and World War Two on BBC yesterday evening, and they told how HMS Audacious, a massive British battleship with heavy guns, was sunk by a German mine early in the war off the coast of Ireland. Throughout the war, the British concealed this fact from the world. In fact, they had photographs of the iconic ship displayed periodically, so they could hoodwink the Germans and their own people, and hide this morale-damaging loss. In short, a propaganda war was fought alongside the real war. The morale of the troops was as important as their military hardware. So when Pearse sent out the messages about help coming from throughout the country, from Germany, it fitted into that all-important department: the boosting of his men’s morale.
As for McGuinness’s lies: well, whether they are lies or not remains to be seen. It is indeed important that republicans do well in the three elections mentioned. And that if they do they will have made important strides towards a united Ireland. “But what about that only-a-tiny-proportion-wanting-Irish-unity thing Ruthie referred to? What about that?”
OK. I’ll say this just once, so Ruthie and everyone else can understand. Nobody knows how many Irish people are keen to reunite their country. This would only emerge if a referendum on the subject were held in the north and the south. But even without a referendum, it’s no crystal-ball-gazing act to say definitively that a lot more than a ‘tiny minority’ want a reunited Ireland. One can never be sure why people vote for various political parties but it’s difficult to see how Sinn Féin’s fortunes north and south could have been boosted to the extent they have, or how further growth is a racing certainty, without at least a goodish number of those so voting wanting a reunited Ireland.
In fact, you might well conclude that when Ruthie says only a ‘tiny minority’ of Irish people want reunification, she is telling…No, Virginia, not a lie. Ruthie lives in England and doesn’t tell lies. Let’s just call it a little porkie pie with a Union flag on top, shall we?