John Hume and response to his death

They’re at it already. John Hume won’t be buried until tomorrow, but the opportunists are seizing his death to take a swing at their opponents.

Gregory Campbell led the field. “He could be very prickly”, Gregory allowed when asked about Hume, “but then I’m sure he’d say the same about me.”  (See what he did there? Elevated himself to Hume’s level). Gregory then went on to explain that it was a pity John Hume had talked with Gerry Adams, as the IRA, infiltrated with informers, “was on its knees.” Had Hume waited, the collapse of violent republicanism would soon have been complete.

I felt pleased and ashamed at Gregory’s words. Ashamed, that someone should be so one-note that he batted away a question about Hume so he could batter down republicans. Pleased, that he and other unionist politicians are so small-minded and obsessed with military victory, they’ll seize any opportunity to declare the IRA was bate. And double-pleased, even. It’s rigid position-taking like Gregory’s that will lead eventually to the total defeat of unionism as a political force and hasten the day of Irish reunification.

Then there was David Trimble,  without his glasses, thinner and even more intense than in the old days. And did he get his eyes lasered or did he pray to the patron saints of unionism? Because his face seems oddly naked without his glasses.  But it’s the old David, his high-point in generosity being that “Northern Ireland was a cold house for Catholics”.  Like, blatant discrimination, shameless gerrymander,  joblessness and poverty – all of these are really just a bit of frost in the air that lasted for fifty years. Well done David.

Even Tommie Gorman couldn’t resist a wee reference to “lesser figures” who commented on John Hume’s “single transferable speech”.  I think it was John Bruton who said that Hume had been a teacher and he knew that you had to keep repeating the words “Spill our sweat not our blood”, “You can’t eat a flag”,  “It’s the division of people that is the problem, not the division of territory,”

Well, maybe that’s the way the former Fine Gael Taoiseach thinks of teaching but it’s not the way I think of it – or about effective communication . I’m not saying there isn’t some truth in Hume’s words, but their constant repetition didn’t result in people finally getting the message – it resulted in people rolling their eyes and using rude words, even when they agreed with the sentiment being expressed. There’s repetition for the sake of emphasis and there’s repletion that sets the teeth on edge. Hume’s constant repetition of the same words merely dulled the message he had for people.

Finally,  you maybe heard Senator George Mitchell – a very good chairman in everyone’s estimation, a discourteous man in my experience  – on RTÉ Radio One this morning. They played it twice, so we didn’t miss it. Senator Mitchell talked about how John Hume could lift the spirits of the negotiators when he entered a room and burst into a verse of “The Town I Know So Well”. Sorry I missed that.

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