Periscope interview with John O’Dowd

It always interesting going up to Stormont.  I find myself impressed by the building on the hill, as I’m intended to be. Mussolini did the same thing when Milan railway station was built – big and brutal and in your face. Ditto  Stormont: the mile-long avenue and the big architecture says ‘We’re boss and we’re here to stay’.

It’s also interesting to talk to MLAs. And before anybody says I talk only to Shinner MLAs, not so: I’ve interviewed John McAllister at Stormont and I tried to get Basil McCrea to do a Periscope interview but he simply didn’t respond (despite affable exchanges to that point). And of course I’ve interviewed politicians of every stripe, from Jim Allister to a leading member of eirigi, for my book ‘Whose Past Is It Anyway?’ (What do you mean, you haven’t a copy, Virginia? Get off your rear and order it from Amazon TODAY.)

A  couple of things struck me during my interview with John O’Dowd, which was considerably longer than this Periscope clip. One was that as Minister for Education, his biggest problem is not with unionists but with unionists and nationalists. That is to say, with a class of unionists and a class of nationalists who insist on providing academic selection, despite research throughout the world showing that non-selective education is better for everyone. You could call the defenders of the 11+  ‘cross-community’, which goes to show you cross-community is sometimes a ball and chain.

I was also struck by the fact that the talks appear to be going somewhere. That’s not the general public mood but I got the impression that while there are all sorts of possibilities for derailment, there is a will within unionism and republicanism to make the institutions work. Given that the alternative is total control by a Tory government in London, that’s something to be grateful for.

I’m also surprised that it is entirely possible that we could have an election before Christmas. Bad time of year for it, yes, but supposing the talks emerge with agreement, do you think the politicians will sit on their hands and let the optimism generated seep away? I think not.

Anyway, judge for yourselves. For what it’s worth, I believe John O’Dowd is one of the most able politicians in Sinn Féin and in Stormont.  See what you think. And note how I pretend at the end to be electronically illiterate. Yes, Virginia, I did say ‘pretend’. ..

24 Responses to Periscope interview with John O’Dowd

  1. Jim Neeson September 30, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    Excellent interview. Mr O`Dowd is a competent Minister and his record and the other SF Ministers show that Republicans can at worst hold the balance of power in both parts of this Island

    • Jude Collins September 30, 2015 at 10:19 am #

      Thank you, Jim. And I’m sure SF do likewise for your kind remarks…

  2. Iolar September 30, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    An excellent interview, this is what politics is about, particularly as we listen to news about more and more unemployment, weeds growing on congested roads and growing waiting lists in the Health Service as politicians prevaricate over red herrings. Workers are taking the initiative and throwing down gauntlets to those politicians who are keen to promote redundancies and welfare cuts.

    Mr Corbyn continues to challenge the need for a nuclear deterrent much to the chagrin of Labour peers in waiting and the circus that is Prime Minister’s question time. Social media illustrates that some politicians are no longer able to fool even some of the people even some of the time. I guess that is progress.

    • Jude Collins September 30, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

      Thank you, Iolar…

  3. Perkin Warbeck September 30, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    When the Flagship Programme of RTE Radio, for whatever reason, opted to give the decision yesterday by the Public Prosecution Office in Norneverland a Mississipppi-sized miss this morning , Esteemed Blogmeister, it was particularly pleasing to turn to your Periscope..

    There are times when it is the hacks who man the Flagship Programmes rather than flags which cause one’s hackles to rise down here South of the Black Sow’s Dyke.

    John O’Dowd would not be quite as well known as ,say, Jeffrey Donaldson, another Norneverland politician with almost identical initials, to RTE Radio listeners. Possibly because he hardly ever gets interviewed by the watchdogs of Donnybrook, Dublin 4. If,indeed, ever. One wonders why.

    Certainly if one is to go on the nine minute clip of Periscope the Minister of Education would seem to be well equipped to give say, The Woodman of Yawning Ireland (see Flagship Programme above) a good run for his money.

    Which would be a lot of lolly indeed. By all accounts, rough, tough radio persons on RTE come in for a lot of legal tender; and the rougher and the tougher they are the more tender the legalities.

    Or, at least who like to throw shapes in the direction of being rough and tough. The questions the Woodman and his little helpers axe, oops ask are not always of the hack ’em up and whack ’em down variety.

    Different ubervolks, different strokes sorta scenario, like.

    There was, for instance, a truly throat-catching item last week from – as it happens, an educational institution – to do with the Great Donkey Derby 14-18. And an educational establishment too which has a statuesque figure in bronze in common with Stormont.

    That would be TCD and Edward Carson.

    (Thinks: any chance a Cumann CLG Carson in honour of the stickfighting enthusiast might entice some of his followers to take up the caman and sliotar instead of re-iterating their bitterness by hurling abuse at the games of the GAA?)..

    The item in q. which got the hush-puppy toned treatment (to borrow a harrowing Harrisim) on Yawning Ireland was the decision by TCD to honour the gallant 471 old boys who fell on their asses in the Great Donkey Derby 14-18.

    Not all of whom were Horse Protestants as a biped Howya who happens to be the current Student Spokesperson was happy to bleeding well point out. Even a Papist or two form the Porter Class joined up at the behest of Mustard Gas Redmond.

    Considering the occasion that was in it the task of organising this moving, moveable feast fell not to the Zoological Faculty, oddly enough, or even the Dept. of Chemistry(see Redmond above) but rather, for some odd reason, the History Department.

    When one heard the number (471) enunciated slowly and reverentially on Yawning Ireland – four hundred and seventy one – one immediately felt as if one had been kicked curtly in the gut, specifically in the Vonnegut. Or was it in the Ray Bradbury’s?

    For as any Professor Fahrenheit will tell one, 451 is the temperature at which paper, including Ancient Irish Vellum, auto-ignites. And indeed some schools of thought differ and put that t-point at (gasp) 471 itself.

    One immediately thought of Kelly’s Book,or as the average Hiram and Harriet on vacation from Hoboken, NJ never calls it ‘The Book of Kells’, and feared for its h. and safety.

    This venerational item was concluded with the dulcet tones of the delectable but sadly unelectable Ivana Bacik (taking time out from her busy morsupial and marsupial studio-hopping circuit) who, strangely was not quizzed about the possibilities of a Bonfire of the Books or indeed how the Book of K. actually ended up in the TCD in the first place.

    (Much in the way a One-horse Protestant Town like Dublin ended up with Two C of I Cathedrals, albeit soi-distant,one supposes).

    Instead, on mature genuflection, she was afforded the op. to strike the note, erm, Jesuitical.

    -The reason why this time of the year has been chosen to commemorate the Gallant 471 is to coincide with the arrival of this year’s intake of Freshpersons.

    Ivana B was speaking in her capacity as Reid Professor of Law, Criminal Law, Penology and Presidential Possibilities. Walking as she does in the immortal high heels of Mss Robinson and McAleese she is surely destined for higher office. But, mind you, this card-carrying contrarian might have have to change her name to Mary before it gets too late. (Wonder does her brief cover Deed Poll?).

    (Four minutes injury time): One understands that John O’Dowd worked as a chef in a former life. The old Harry S. Truman truism comes to mind: ‘If you cannot stand the heat get out of the kitchen’.

    One suspects that it precisely the political reason The Woodman of Yawning Ireland (whose bark can strip the bark off a heart of oak at fifty paces, allegedly) would appear to be rather reluctant to invite The Minister of Education in Norneverland for a cosy, campfire chat.

    N’fheadar cen fath?

    • Jude Collins September 30, 2015 at 5:58 pm #

      I rate J O’Dowd as one of the most articulate MLAs in Stormont. I think even – maybe especially – those who dislike him would have to agree. Maybe that’s why Yawning Ireland don’t seek him out. Btw, Perkin – how is it that south of the Black Pig’s Dyke they keep producing smart guys like you, yet you haven’t the benefit of following the British curriculum form that we clutch fondly to our bosoms (such as they are)? And has the Education cross-border body ever asked (i) what knowledge one system has of the other; (ii) what one system can learn from the other? Just askin’, like…

      • Perkin Warbeck October 1, 2015 at 7:10 am #

        GRMA, Esteemed Blogmeister, though not quite accurate to state we hadn’t the benefit of the British curriculum in our thus-far-and-no-further machine of an educational system down here in the Free Southern Stateen.

        Speaking from experience, one had the benefit, throughout a long and undistinguished academic career, of three teachers from Norneverland. The first two were Christian Brothers who almost succeeded in persuading the shortpant version of Perkie to their way of thinking.

        The first hailed from County Tyrone and was the Recruiting Sergeant for the order on the staff. He had an unique line in the Kitchener Come-on: ‘Boys, I was brought up in a wee house full of girls. And I couldn’t wait to get away from them all ! In time ye’ll all come to see the wisdom of my choice. I just pray that time will be sooner rather than too later’.

        One was sorely tempted. Indeed, erm, McSorley tempted.

        The second Christian Brother hailed from the uplands of County Down. At that time it was drilled into us at school that ‘The Eleventh Commandment is:Thou shalt not play soccer’. As this brother had grown up in the same parish as Peter McParland of Aston Villa this rendered him in our impressionable eyes a creature of rare exoticism.

        He never stopped talking about his famous neighbour who, that very same year, broke the hearts (and one cheekbone) of the pre-Munich Manchester United in the FA Cup Final, by scoring two goals. Again, for a brief period, one flirted with the idea of becoming a soccer playing Christian Brother.

        Alas, it was an ambition unrealised and the only piece of flotsam one is left clinging to is the Eleventh Commandment (see above). The value of which becometh more evident by the sere and yellow day. (As distinct from the claret and sky blue day).

        The third teacher was of a different order entirely, though a Christian through and through. His first name was definitely Jude and when he spoke one tended to lend an ear (at the going rate). In those days he was a Cogmeister even if one did fully esteem that trait at the time.

        In the sense, he was death on the time-honoured academic tradition of cogging.

        -Ye were all born with a brain, boys: use it.

        John O’Dowd strikes one as someone who might have be of one mind with J. Collins (for it was he !). And if one were asked for one’s tuppence worth of advice on curricular matters (though the extra-curricular would be more one’s area of, ahem, expertise) it would have to do with Texarcana. (see blog two days back).

        Texarcana is, of course, the Lough Rea of the US of A. Whereas the latter is where the three counties meet (Longford, Westmeath and Roscommon) the former is an acronym for Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

        Back in the days when Perkie was a little bitty Warbeck his mama used to rock him in the cradle ‘in them old cottonfields back home, down in Louisiana just a mile from Texarcana’.

        In other words, that part of the German Queen’s English and also, Leprchaun curriculum marked ‘modern poetry’ ought to replaced post haste by ‘lyrics of the great song book’. For two reasons: (a) the music is far better’ and (b) ditto where the words are concerned.

        From ‘how the Gods above us who must be in the know/ think so little of me they allow you to go’ to ‘and I stumbled to the closet where I fumbled for my cleanest dirty shirt’ to ‘agus a Ri na Gloire Gile, tabhair ar ais an oiche areir’ from the inspired pens of Cole Porter, Kris Kristoffeson and Seamas agus/no Seosamh Mac Grianna respectively.

        Finally, on the question of Leprechaun in the curriculum of Norneverland. Down here in the self-loathing schools of thought (alleged) of the Shoneenia south of the Black Sow’s Dyke it is a badge of honour to boast of the Cupla Focal (11 in Roman numerals) which somehow remain in one’s gob after eleven years (11) of Compulsory Erse.

        Too busy are we, you see, improving the German Queen’s English. Hence, the Fintan O’Toole approved phenom known as: DruidShakespeare.

        To avoid the hubris of Hibernia South one could easily envisage John O’Dowd’s inner chef adopting the George Baker Selection policy.

        ‘George Baker’ of course is the Dutch genius who had a monster hit in the Seventies with his self-penned anthem: ‘Una Paloma Blanca’. Its upbeat and magically fluted intro is truly infectious and utterly compelling. To describe it as Mozartian is a term which would only draw a frown from the incurable musical snob. One just knows that Wolfgang Amadeus would have have found it irresistibly whistleable.

        Look upon that as the German Queen’s English. Every Nornerland native, be they from the Dove White City of Londonderry or not will fly as high as a bird in the sky, over the mountains and to the four green ends of the earth. It’s the world we all inhabit. And English will get you everywhere (apart perhaps from where Kenny Daglish or Alex Ferguson, sir, hail from).

        This lingua franca is a sine qua non. Lan-stad / Full stop.

        (Though Perkiei inner philologist prefers to think of it as The Great Shake’s English).

        What is often (to the point of always) overlooked is that ‘George Baker’ had a second, subtler and far more low-key hit. One who did not overlook it was the equally great Quentin Tarantino who included it as the soundtrack to the mesmeric opening sequence of ‘Reservoir Dogs’.

        That would have been ‘Little Green Bag’.

        Languages, it is said, are the lightest of all cargo to lug around. (Though try telling that to the moronic monoglots in the manipulative media in the Free Southern Stateen).

        Let the Little Green Bag be the Leprechaun. (Even lighter now that the, erm, LIttle Green Book is no longer on the curriculum).

        An tir gan teanga Tarantino, an tir gan anam.

        • paddykool October 1, 2015 at 10:17 am #

          Man o’ man , Mighty Perk, but you are firing on all cylinders this foggy day…escaping the clutches of the Brothers in Arms while you are at it… They did try , didn’t they? Man they had those nets thrown out from an early impressionable age…thank the stars for lubricious girls to lure us away from their clutches ….no contest at all…at all…..

  4. Michael Eden September 30, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

    You should have asked him about his policy re. closure or rural primary
    schools and ripping the hearts out of local communities. Voters have long
    memories when it comes to election time !

    • Jude Collins September 30, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

      Well if I’d known it was an issue for you I’d have done that. School closures have been happening for decades and they’re always a painful affair. There are different factors usually involved – economics, education, context – a difficult one.

    • Iolar September 30, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

      A chara, the Tories were ripping the hearts out of communities with slave labour, slavery, child labour, and draconian legislation long before this particular Minister obtained his mandate. I agree, voters do have long memories when it comes to election time, Mr Corbyn has just proved the point. QED.

  5. Jude Collins September 30, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    Yet the British people gave the Tories a majority….

    • Ryan September 30, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

      Didn’t they get just 35% of the vote?. The overall turnout at the British General Election was only 66%. Britain might have had Miliband as a PM right now if the 34% that stayed at home had went out and voted.

  6. Argenta September 30, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

    “And of course I’ve interviewed politicians of every stripe,from Jim Allister to a leading member of eirigi for my book “Whose Past is it Anyway”
    My memory may be fallible but I can’t remember an interview in your book with any member of the S D L P.No doubt you’ll correct me if I’m wrong!

    • Jude Collins October 1, 2015 at 8:10 am #

      Well you see, Argenta, my focus was on politicians…

      • paddykool October 1, 2015 at 10:21 am #

        I’ve just this moment noticed that in your “books” section you are remiss in not including the mighty “Booing The Bishop” which we all know is for sale to all Kindle owners at a very paltry sum on Amazon….

        • Jude Collins October 1, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

          DAMN! Must attend to. It’s worth the price for the cover alone…

          • paddykool October 1, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

            Must buy another copy !

      • fiosrach October 1, 2015 at 10:22 am #

        Straight to the heart, Jude.

      • Argenta October 1, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

        A nasty dig,unworthy of you,So you rate a member of eirigi( an unelected,unrepresentative group) higher than a nationalist politician(no matter how much you dislike the party’s politics).I would have thought someone like your former colleague Sean Farren would have had some interesting insights.So much for parity of esteem in your world!

        • Jude Collins October 1, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

          If it was nasty it wasn’t characteristic of me. Just a little joke, A – lighten up. OK, so I should have interviewed SDLP, Alliance, UUP, Fianna Fail, Labour Party – any others? I wanted width – from Jim Allister to Chairman of eirigi (he was elected Chair, I’m sure – plus Prof Diarmuid Ferriter at the Dublin launch singled out his contribution as particularly valuable…). I like Sean, but as a writer I know more people would be likely to read an interview with the eirigi man than Sean. And stop sounding like my maiden aunt, for God’s sake…

  7. Argenta October 2, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    Glad my remark evoked a considered response.You apparently have the gift(like Eamon De Valera) of knowing what the people of Ireland would think!!You seem very keen to promote the “thinking ” of the eirigi representative .Is he not as your good friend Gerry Kelly would say a “member of a micro group”?Has he ever stood for election to the Dail or local council?

    • Jude Collins October 2, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

      I don’t think so, Argenta. Nor has Roddy Doyle, Fr Brian D’Arcy, who were included in the book. I didn’t choose the people in the book on whether they were politically viable – though as I say Prof Diarmuid Ferriter was particularly impressed by his argument, so maybe you’d be better taking it up with him. Go on, Argenta, admit it: you’re miffed because there were no SDLP people there. How come you’re not as upset about the Labour Party, the UUP, Fianna Fail, etc?