Isn’t it funny how you discuss a subject frivilously and end up having a row. Mrs FJH and I only row twice a year…at the “Queens” Birthday Honours and “New Year Honours”.
Basically I have told Mrs FJH that she can never accept a MBE, OBE or whatever. If she did, I would never be able to hold my head up among my socialist, republican and nationalist friends. Mrs FJH takes the view that if she is offered “an honour”, she will grab it with both hands.
I have told Mrs FJH that I will not go to Buckingham Palace with her…Mrs FJH says that I will do what I am told. As far as I can make out, getting “an honour” involves wearing a hat…and Mrs FJH likes wearing a hat.
When you work in the public sector …as I did for 32 years, there is the twice-yearly problem that someone you work with might get a bauble. This is a bit awkward. It seems like good manners to say “congratulations” but it also seems principled to say nothing or say it thru gritted teeth.
In my experience two kinda people get “honours”….your boss (in which case you might get a chocolate eclair) or a junior filing clerk with forty years experience (in which case you will get nothing).
But lets be honest ….for every midwife who has driven thru snow drifts in the Scottish Highlands for forty odd years who is thrilled to get a MBE, there is a former politician who gets a peerage. And for every elderly man who gets a OBE for running a charity shop in Southampton, there is a billionaire banker in the City of London who is getting a knighthood.
The Brits need the human interest stories to justify the corruption.
But how exactly is it done? Well, there is a section of the Cabinet Office who filter the suggestions made by the Health Authority in the Scottish Highlands or the Charities or the Political Parties or the Sports Organisations.
Thus there are celebs who loiter with intent of a knighthood…and there always seems to be a headline grabber every year….Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench….all Dames of the Realm. Bruce Forysth, Cliff Richard, Elton John, Mick Jagger ….all knights of the Real ….Somehow Jimmy Savile got thru.
For Barbara Windsor the wait is over. David Beckham is being held back for a while.
As it happens, I know more about this kinda thing than most republicans but I have signed the Official Secrets Act and I cant actually tell you.
So basically…in mid November a letter from the Cabinet Office drops thru your letter box. “Would you like a MBE?….RSVP…..Dont Tell Anyone!”
i reckon that having seen “Honours Lists” for over forty years, I have known someone on the list…(say) once every four years. Catholic. Protestant. ….and I have known at least four people (non-politicians) who have said “no thanks” or “shove it up your arse”. The thing that unites the recipients is not so much Politics or even Nationality….it is just that they like that kinda thing. People who like to order headed notepaper with “MBE”. Surely we all know someone like that “Fur Coat…No Knickers”.
But really it is the political parties who submit one or two names to be honoured.In the House of “Lords” we have among others, “Lord Morrow” and “Lady Paisley” (DUP) and “Lord Rogan” and “Lord Kilclooney” (John Taylors fanciful title) (UUP). “Lord All-Too-Nice” (Alliance now Liberal Democrat) and “Lord Trimble” (UUP now Conservative). I assume most or all of them were nominated by their Parties.
While SDLP sends elected representatives as MPs to Westminster, there has never been a SDLP “Lord” or “Lady”. While the daily attendance fee and the expenses are potentially a nice little earner, SDLP rightly regard an unelected Assembly as a farce and an insult to Democrats. It is undoubtedly true that John Hume and Seamus Mallon were sounded out by the British Govvernment to take a peerage…and probably Eddie McGrady and Joe Hendron….but SDLP are at heart believers in Democracy. My readers may mention Gerry Fitt…but….you are wrong.
Only a handful of SDLP councillors have been offered and accepted MBEs and OBEs. Mostly not for direct political activity. It has not always endeared recipients to party members and one or two have indicated that colleagues have marginalised them. One former SDLP member has his headstone engraving “XXXX XXXXX MBE”.which is a variation on getting your name on headed notepaper but it seems like a rebuke to the SDLP colleagues who thought he was wrong to accept it.
This year Sinn Féin are enjoying the fact that Pat McCarthy, former SDLP Mayor of Belfast has accepted an honour. McCarthy was interned in 1971 and is a committed socialist. In fact he is responsible for the City Hall window which commemorates the Belfast men who fought for the International Brigade against Franco in the Spanish Civil War.
Leaving aside the specifically Irish dimension I can never understand why English republicans and socialists accept these gongs….take “Sir” Patrick Stewart of Star Trek.
But I digress…Pat McCarthy MBE. Not a serving SDLP councillor , he lost his seat in 2014 Super Council Elections.
The reaction is interesting. Sinn Féin mock….SDLP reaction is muted. Yes I have seen a defence that Pat Mac has honourably served the people of Belfast but more significantly an SDLP spokesman has said that Pat McCarthy has a right to accept it….but I have not seen any official congratulatory statement on SDLP website. The Party seems to be distancing itself.
But….there does seem something odd about Danny Morrison of Sinn Féin making so much of it.
I mean….just how many people did SDLP nominate to get a MBE? And how many people did Sinn Féin nominate to get a Royal Pardon?
A sense of proportion would make sense.