Some are born knowledgeable, some achieve knowledge and some have knowledge thrust upon them. Here’s what’s been thrust on me in the past week.

  1. There are an awful  lot of people who still miss Martin McGuinness an awful lot. While I’d like to think it was my masterly presentation last Friday at Feile an Phobail, I don’t believe that explains the rapt attention which my talk on my book Martin McGuinness: The Man I Knew  got, or the emotional hush when I played a slideshow of photographs showing  Martin at different stages in his life. He was strong, he was charming, and even hard-bitten unionists were slightly in awe of him. You were right, Arlene: we shall not look up on his like again. His death may not have been  quite as brutal as that of Michael Collins, but his loss was in many ways as great.
  2. Gerry Adams needs elbow-room in an interview. I talked to him in front of a crowd of over three hundred on Monday night and of the dozens of interviews I’ve conducted over the years, it must have been one of the easiest. I suspect that was because I let him follow whatever line of thought was prompted by my question, even if it didn’t relate directly to what I asked. Sometimes the answers to questions are far more interesting than the confines of the question itself. I mean, I can’t imagine what question could have winkled out his recollection of the time in custody when one of his mischievous comrades yelled to a newly-arrived British army guard: “ Hi, Brit. Brit! My name’s Gerry Adams and you come down here, I’ll knock your bollocks off!”
  3. The media are relentless trivialisers. In the course of our 70 minutes-plus interview, the former Sinn Féin president spent about two minutes talking about a cookbook he’s bringing out before Christmas, called The Negotiators Cook Book. This’ll be based on the food republicans prepared for themselves over the grueling weeks leading up to the Good Friday Agreement. During the rest of my interview with him, he discussed such things as the difference between writing fiction and non-fiction, a sever beating he received from the British Army and his response to it, and the occasion on which two British undercover soldiers drove into an IRA funeral. But then that wouldn’t have allowed the media to have wildly funny headings like “Our diet will come” and “Cookies ar lá”.
  4. The British media feed off each other. I was interviewed for the BBC News channel last night, and my interviewer seemed convinced that this Cook Book was a change of tack by the former Sinn Féin president, that he was now trying to soften his grim image. Anyone who knows Gerry Adams or even his tweets, will know that he has a relentlessly playful side to his character. Read Cage Eleven , which consists of columns smuggled out to Republican News during the early Seventies: he’s writing from a grim prison camp in which he and hundreds of others have been imprisoned without trial or date of release, yet the majority of the columns are shot through with humour.
  5. Fianna Fail doesn’t understand the nature of international agreements or even democracy. At last night’s leaders’ debate, Fianna Fail’s Lisa Chambers rejected the notion that in a border poll, 50% + 1 would be sufficient to decide whether partition continued or not. That just wouldn’t work, Ms Chambers figured. That is, it wouldn’t work if those in favour of a united Ireland won 50% + 1. If those in favour of continued partition won 50% +1, I’m guessing she would be for adhering to the will of the people.


All that since last Friday. I’m wobbly with new knowledge.


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