What Peter, Maggie and Ian said back then

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Arguing from the particular to the general is a risky and often inaccurate business. Because you meet a unionist or republican who talks rubbish does not mean that all unionists or all republicans are rubbish-talkers. That said, examples can provide intriguing pointers.

For example, we have a tendency to assume that the authorities know better. If Thomas Murphy is tried in a jury-less court, the authorities probably have information that makes sense of this decision. Or if savage cuts are made in the NHS, that’s probably because the Chancellor of the Exchequer realizes There Is No More Money.

If you’re given to this they-know-better line of thinking, a dip into the archives can be interesting.

Recently-revealed state papers tell us this morning, for instance, that Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs (sic) in 1986, Fine Gael’s Peter Barry, believed that Ian Paisley was “running out of steam”. Not just that but the man to keep an eye on was Peter Robinson, who was “dangerous”. Nice call, Peter. And good to know the public was paying you for judgements like that.

But hey, let’s not be too hard on the Fine Gael man. The state papers show Paisley himself wasn’t always that bright in his judgements. We all know the famous poster of him with a sledgehammer, vowing to Smash Sinn Féin.  In 1986, it seems, his view on Thatcher was that she wasn’t an Iron Lady at all but just “a tin-foil cutty”. And to think there were thousands who accepted Paisley’s pronouncements without question.

Thatcher herself, we know,  made a huge misjudgement in ‘standing up’ to the demands of the hunger strikers for political status. But the newly-opened state papers show that she entertained even wilder thoughts: “What would you do if Dundalk were bombed?” she asked Garret Fitzgerald back in 1986. I’ll resist the temptation to point out that Dublin and Monaghan had already been bombed with the help of British forces. But supposing the RAF had run a bombing mission over Dundalk – what would have been the reaction of Irish people?

One of two things, I’d say. It might have had the effect that Hiroshima and Nagasaki had on the Japanese: they realized they couldn’t continue fighting against such terrible might and surrendered. Maybe Irish people would have drawn similar conclusions and support for the IRA would have dried up rapidly.

A second, more likely reaction would have been that the IRA would have received a boost that would have made the aftermath of Bloody Sunday look anaemic. What had been a conflict confined largely to the north would have flooded the entire country. We could well have been back to something resembling the Black and Tan War.

What the state papers tell us is that the authorities are  capable of being beyond stupid in their judgements. We mustn’t generalise, but at the same time we might keep that in mind when reading Pat Rabbitte’s latest dictum, that Sinn Féin have “a vested interest in maintaining misery in Ireland”.  If they were here today, Peter, Ian and Maggie would have recognized Pat’s quality of judgement immediately.

20 Responses to What Peter, Maggie and Ian said back then

  1. jessica December 30, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    “Sinn Féin have “a vested interest in maintaining misery in Ireland”.”

    I must be really think, but could someone please tell me exactly how Sinn Féin are “maintaining misery in Ireland” unless you are referring to the spoiling the civil war parties dominance of the Free State that have run like the place like a dictatorship since conception.

    And what possibly could their “vested interest” in doing so be? Expecting democracy and basic human rights be extended to them and every citizen on this island by the Irish Free State?

    Unless you are prepared to accept every word the state and its blatantly obvious unimpartial media as you say, then for those of us who can see the lies the state and its media are feeding us what lies beneath is truly disgusting.

    • jessica December 30, 2015 at 10:05 am #

      “I must be really think”

      Oops, should read thick not think, what a word to get wrong in such context like a self fulfilling observation.
      Damn you clicky fingers

  2. Iolar December 30, 2015 at 10:31 am #

    The Irish Labour Party and other right wing parties, have nothing to learn about “keeping Ireland in misery.” It seems we may have to cope with a few more barren nights. Le cúnamh Dé beidh athbhliain níos fearr againn/Here’s hoping for a better New Year.

  3. Jim.hunter December 30, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    Maggie.was.mad.for.even thinking.of.doing.that.dundalk.jude.God.help.us.

    • Jude Collins December 30, 2015 at 11:28 am #


  4. Wolfe tone December 30, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    I think tin knickers Maggie was spending too much time with Jimmy savile and thus developed a Zionist outlook on things.

  5. giordanobruno December 30, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    I think we can safely say Maggie was not thinking of bombing Dundalk.
    Clearly she was saying
    “How would you like it”
    as you would to a child pulling his sister’s pigtails.
    Let’s not get hysterical about the evil Brits here.

    • Jude Collins December 30, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

      ‘We’, gio? Is that the royal plural? Or are you assuming you can speak for the rest of us as well as yourself. And to say that she spoke to the Taoiseach of the time as one would to a child…Let’s not get all omniscient…

  6. neill December 30, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    Jude you are being very hard on Gio do you have a wee teachers pick on him?

    • Jude Collins December 30, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

      No, no, no, no, neill – I love him just as much as I love you… I don’t always agree with him – or you – and sometimes I say so. Other times I bite my lip. Other times again I have a life to live…

  7. Ryan December 30, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    Its always very interesting to read what was really going on behind closed doors when these files are being disclosed after 20-30 years. Of course I’m not foolish enough to believe that ALL documents relating to big political events have been disclosed, some are WAY too sensitive to maybe ever disclose and I’m sure show Governments, in this case the British Government, breaking their own laws and committing crimes, including murder.

    I don’t think anyone will forget what former UUP man Ken Maginnis said about Thatcher herself phoning him in the middle of the night, getting the names of suspected republicans and then those named men turning up dead not long after. Ken, as far as I’m aware, hasn’t been questioned over this or charged. If I were to say exactly what Ken said on a TV programme and people later turned up dead you can bet your last pretty penny that I would be immediately arrested and questioned and rightly so. But in our little failed statelet in the North of Ireland its much like George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”: All animals are Equal….but some animals are more Equal than others….(in this case Ken, not to mention Thatcher).

    I was reading on “The Journal.ie” website about how the then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald had a heated argument with Archbishop of New York, John O’Connor over the Archbishops insistence on condemning ALL violence, including that of the British Government. Whereas FitzGerald only wanted IRA violence to be condemned. The Archbishop stood his ground and refused to ignore “British injustices in Northern Ireland”. So here we have FitzGerald actively defending British violence (including murder, collusion, denial of Justice, corrupt courts, etc) and laying the blame at the door of the IRA. Much like Pat Rabbitte saying SF has a vested interest in keeping misery in Ireland…..even though its Pat’s party and their buddies Fine Gael that has been butchering Disability benefits and cutting peoples money that they depend on to survive for the past 5 years. That’s like an abusive husband blaming his battered wife for his own violence. The article can be found on The Journal.ie website.

    Who knows what else the likes of FitzGerald was up to during this period. As Jude rightly points out Dublin/Monaghan was bombed with the help of the British Army and we all know the Irish Government neglected their duties to protect their citizens, investigate the mass murder or get truth and accountability. And to this day the British Government refuse to release files on the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, I think that says it all.

    I wasn’t alive during the Troubles (Thank God) but as time goes on and more and more information comes out, I’m not surprised in the slightest that war broke out here. In fact, I’m surprised it didn’t break out earlier. During the 1960’s to early 1990’s period, the British/Irish Governments had no interest in peace but were pursuing an unattainable victory over the IRA…..the UVF/UDA on the other hand were considered allies and were given a free rein to carry out sectarian murder sprees of Catholic civilians. As I mentioned before: “All animals are Equal….but some animals are more Equal than others….”

    • jessica December 30, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

      “I wasn’t alive during the Troubles (Thank God) but as time goes on and more and more information comes out, I’m not surprised in the slightest that war broke out here.”

      Ryan, you are a reminder to us all that we cannot allow conflict to return.

      Absolutely no one should be protected from the truth, it all needs to come out, but through evidence and not via special courts where convictions have been fabricated.

      A lot of the media propaganda and use of state agents is to perpetuate the belief that the conflict is on going to keep evidence hidden through national security and to continue the use of state agents and police manipulation. Both the Garda and PSNI are well aware of what is going on.

      Until the two states put their hands up and be honest with the public, they are unfairly risking our children’s futures for nothing more than self preservation.

      Fine Gael are unfit to claim the mantle of those who gave their lives for Irish freedom.

  8. Perkin Warbeck December 30, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    To pick up where you left off, Esteemed Blogmeister, with our fourth estate’s very own favourite pet rabbit, Pat Rabbitte.

    Down here in the Free Southern Stateen rumours (unconfirmed) abound to the effect that the dread of facing into the Return of the Undead in Easter 2016 has sadly caused a spike in the number of shoneens being placed under cardiac arrest.

    As shoneen is a term of affection that has long been deemed deeply unfashionable south of the Black Pig’s Dyke perhaps a word of explanation is needed for the younger set. Essentially it refers to folk in the FSS who like to wrap themselves around in the Butcher’s Apron on special occasions. The most recent being the seasonal pep talk from Hausfrau Saxe-Coburg Gotha.

    As it happens, She is also the pet lizard of the fourth estate, in the FSS and would form a perfect match, in cuddly toy form, with the the above mentioned pet rabbit. To be, perhaps, marketed under the brand name of Liz and Pat or LAP. Or even as Pat and Liz or PAL.

    For the time being however, Pat Rabbitte is only too delighted to project himself as the Energizer Bunny as battle lines are being drawn for the civilised verbal brawls that lurk around the turn of the year.The Energizer Bunny is dead bent of becoming THE Easter Bunny of 2016. No murmur of heart problems in this quarter, to be sure.

    And just as the Energizer Bunny started out as a parody of the Duracell Bunny, in the case of Pat Rabbitte, self-parody has never been far from the surface. Even as he morphed from being a WP to a DL to a LP and now, finally, on the verge of reaching his apotheosis, the ultimate MF*,each new incarnation has been a parody of his previous self.

    In every reinvention a noticeable increase in avoirdupois, which is consistent with a greater aura of self-gravitas, has been observed in the persona of PR, who has always been his very own best PR. Distinguished nutritionists, whose opinions Perkie’s inner portly persona implicitly, respects, put this bloating down, to an exponential intake of buns by the bunny: sticky buns.

    That he opted for the persona of the Energizer Bunny is no surprise. This cuddly toy is a pink rabbit, with sunglasses (Fat Pat of the Mayo mafia, anyone?) and blue sandals to match who is perpetually beating a tattoo on the big bass drum to the rhythm of ‘Croppy, lie down !’. That the Duracell Bunny was given to wearing an orange tank top, is further proof that the Energizer Bunny will not only be THE Easter Bunny of 2016 but also bids well to be THE most effective carrier of cultural myxomatosis on the Twarlfth of Never.


    * MF (Me Feiner)


    • Jude Collins December 30, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

      ” That the Duracell Bunny was given to wearing an orange tank top, is further proof that the Energizer Bunny will not only be THE Easter Bunny of 2016 but also bids well to be THE most effective carrier of cultural myxomatosis on the Twarlfth of Never.” A proverbial firework up the bob-tail of PR…

  9. pointis December 31, 2015 at 10:04 am #

    There is an old Ulster proverb “it is easy to sleep on another man’s wound” and it articulates the fact that many of the benefits and freedoms we enjoy today and often take for granted, have been earned through the sacrifices and sufferings of others.

    Pat Rabbitte for example enjoys the benefits of being able to exercise self determination in a Government which was brought about by the sacrifice of those individuals who opposed the writ of British imperialism in Ireland and throughout the world. People like those people who are or have been members of Sinn Féin.

    It is not easy to get your head around the mindset of someone like Mr Rabbitte and what he believes by saying that Sinn Féin are maintaining the misery for people here.

    What could he possibly mean by that? Well Sinn Féin by any stretch of the imagination are not responsible for any widespread misery being suffered by people south of the border so I suspect he means all the disruption North of the border caused by flags and parades.

    To understand Mr Rabbitte’s thinking you have to get into the mindset of the oppressor or the thinking of someone who accepts and condones the narrative espoused by the oppressor.
    1. It was the fault of the Jews and not the Romans that Jerusalem was razed to the ground by the Romans around 40 AD.
    2. It was the fault of French resistance and not the Nazis that French civilians had to be rounded up and executed by the Nazis because of the activities of the resistance in the locality.
    3. It was the fault of Rosa Parks that 4 baptist churches were attacked by white supremacists and the black population of Montgomery were intimidated by police and city officials because of her insubordinate behaviour in not giving up her seat to a white bus passenger.
    4. It was the fault of the population of Gaza not the State of Israel, that over 2000 Gazan citizens were killed including more than 400 children when the IDF launched an all-out military assault on the city of Gaza because of the actions of Palestinian militants.

    Mr Rabbitte may not agree with those statements but he certainly agrees with the sentiment behind them when he blames those who stand up against inequalities and and a widely held grievance for the oppressive measures implemented by the oppressor because those grievances are acted upon.

    For the normal man or woman on the street to adopt such a stance would involve a level of hypocrisy on a breathtaking scale but then you very quickly remember he is after all a leading member of the southern Labour Party!

    • jessica December 31, 2015 at 11:41 am #

      Thanks Pointis

      I suppose those of us who have had to live through having flags and bigotry rubbed in our faces both in the workplace and in supposedly shared spaces, by police, army and often by employers, who to get on in life have had to bottle up and tolerate being treated like lesser human beings, who thought the peace process would make a difference only to find out the conflict continues but only now, the southern state has allied with the british in condemnation of our community and in actively pursuing a propaganda war against nationalism.

      I dont know, perhaps we should all just do as gio wants and all go hang ourselves.

      • giordanobruno December 31, 2015 at 3:56 pm #


      • neill December 31, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

        Jessica perhaps you have not moved on from the wild days of your youth. In my opinion you are still fighting my forefathers who came over with the plantation and that fight is over you cant fight the ghosts of the past.

        • jessica December 31, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

          It wasn’t a ghost or your forefathers who put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger neill.

          But I do get what you’re saying and thank you for saying it neill.

          Think I will give it a break for a bit, im intelligent enough to know it is messing with my head and bringing back too much crap I thought I had dealt with.

          Apologies if I have upset anyone, was never my intention.

  10. pointis December 31, 2015 at 9:20 pm #


    I wouldn’t be unduly concerned by the views expressed by people soon to be a “yesterday’s man”. Mr Rabbitte is not on his own in holding such views but he is certainly part of a ever decreasing cadre of self serving entities (soon to be non-entities).