The problem with being very old is that I have seen far too much politics. I cannot be bluffed by a 40 year old member of the Alliance Party, a 30 year old member of Sinn Féin or for that matter a 20 year old member of SDLP.
I can of course be bluffed. But only by a decreasing number of very old people and a growing number of very dead people.
Take “Operation Harvest”. The grandiose title for the failed IRA Border Campaign 1956-1962. I am old enough to remember it …obviously vaguely. But I will never forget the B Specials standing around the the RUC Barracks at Platers Hill, Coalisland. Nor will I forget the newspaper headlines in late January 1961. A member of the RUC was killed on the day my last grandparent died.
Of course, I would later know some of the men who had taken part in that campaign. Or more likely interned because that campaign never really affected Belfast. During long walks on summer nights, men who had been “involved” were pointed out to me by my father.
The only real legacy from 1956-1962 is the ballad “Sean South from Garryowen”. The IRA decided to “go political” and a lot of members voted with their feet and walked away, mumbling that the leadership were “commies”.
See….this is a strange thing about the “Republican Movement”. It is oddly lacking in a political philosophy other than “Brits Out”, which is a very noble sentiment.
Of course a few years after walking away from the “Republican Movement”, the anti-Commies were back in charge as the Provisional IRA. The Provos routinely recruited teenagers in West Belfast, promoting their anti-Commie credentials. The joke at the time was that the Provos went to Mass once a week and the Stickies (“Officials”) went to Mass once a month.
Of course by the late 1970s, the Provos adopted a leftist philosophy. But I dont think it was ever more than lip-service. The Provos needed the respectability of “left wing” international revolution….whether it was”comrades” in the PLO or ETTA or whatever….just never enough to scare off wealthy American donors.
So….I dont take all that stuff down at the International Wall all that seriously….murals PLO, ETTA…not to mention Frederick Douglass, Leonard Peltier and Nelson Mandela.
I is all part of a narrative constructed for Sinn Féin, rather than any accurate portrayal.
After all John Mitchel, with that monument in Newry was a supporter of slavery in USA and two sons died for the Confederacy. Of course some Republicans will claim that there is no comparison between 1861 and 2017. Indeed…but during his stay in United States, Thomas J Clarke was not overly fond of black people. Again no comparison …people might say.
But Republicans do like to create or rediscover a narrative. The emphasis recently on Winnie Carney is a case in point.
And while we all like a good chorus of Spanish Civil War song “Viva La Quinta Brigada”, there are oddly few ballads that commemorate the IRA bombing campaign in England during the Second World War.
and then…Sean South…and then the “Marxist IRA”.
then the Marxist Provos.
To be honest, I have three Che Guevara Tshirts. It is mostly a fashion statement or maybe some kinda statement about myself…that I am a very unlikely member of the 1960s Counter-Culture. It is always the quiet ones.
And likewise Sinn Féin are making a fashion statement with PLO badges.
It is a pattern with Sinn Féin
Their commitment to the Irish language does not extend beyond a cupla focal to satisfy their base.
Their commitment to Gaelic sport does not extend beyond wearing an Antrim track suit in a Falls Road bar.
Their commitment to revolutionary socialism does not extend beyond a Che Guevara Tshirt.
Only the young can be duped.
So…Martin McGuinness promising a “warm welcome” to Donald Trump does not surprise me. Martin is much the same age as I am.
Alas Michelle O’Neill, considerably younger than me says it is “inappropriate”
And Gerry Adams, even older than me says he will go to the White House for St Patrick’s Day…”if invited”.
Can anybody be really surprised?
It is just that Sinn Féin are no longer in fashion with their Che Guevara Tshirts. In a few months, they will be selling Donald Trump baseball hats in Sinn Féin bookshops.
A brilliant summary, and unfortunately contains truth long over-due a good kicking by the mainstream commentariat. I take it you’re not bluffed by the sentimentalism of Eamon Mallie etc. also.
I think Eamonn Mallie has been an excellent journalist but too fond of his own exclusives.
I was wondering if you are going to do a constituency-by-constituency analysis of who you expect to get elected?
I have already been out and about in Dungannon, Omagh, Coalisland and FFivemiletown.
Hope to take in Newry on Wednesday and probably Strabane on Thursday or Friday.
I would love to know your predictions too. This could either be good for the SDLP or bad- there are quite big stakes and a wide range of ways it could turn out as far as i can see.
I think its the same for all Parties.
And whether there is actually going to be an Assembly or Direct Rule.
If its obvious that there will be Direct Rule, then difficult to see how it will benefit some parties.
There is also the “transfer” problem.
This Election has come two years earlier than SDLP would have liked.
I remember strongly meeting west Belfast types in the 80s. Full of left wing rhetoric. Captivating for those without a broader world knowledge. Still, I think the SF types in those days had a strong left wing view that I admired.
A lot of it is related to education and informal discussions in Long Kesh.
Even they revolutionary socialists in Sinn Féin aren’t blind and dumb Fitz – but we do exist, if not doubt as small, perhaps insignificant and deluded minority. But we can fully comprehend the contradictions. We do get the national question though – like good revolutionary socialists do. Like all national movements, they are as broad as the nation politically to some extent, much like the ANC is or the PLO was.
Oh nobody spouts better (international) revolutionary rhetoric than I do. I have my PLO badge and my Che Guevara Tshirts. I can watch YouTube and sing along with the Dubliners and then downgrade to the Wolfe Tones.
The other week in Milltown I saw the grave of a man who died in prison in England during World War Two…part of the “Expeditionary Force”…he appears to be written out of the narrative.
Much in the way Winnie Carney has been written in.
Sinn Féin have this chameleon-like ability. The youngsters dont seem to get that.