Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Two Nasty Men Sit Next to Each Other Shock

The Northern Irish, like the Chinese, think they are the centre of the world. When a few drunks got angry with me over my coverage of the George Best funeral, otherwise sane and sober Ulstermen kept insisting this was a big story. They did so because they genuinely think that everything that happens in Ulster - population less than 2 million - is of absolute and pressing concern to the world - population a lot more than 6 billion. The same phenomenon is at work with the coverage of Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley sitting next to each other. This is, we are told, 'historic'. The fact that these two freaks - who wouldn't, in any half way decent democracy, be allowed within ten miles of any real power - sat down together is not historic, it is pathetic. But, when Northern Ireland is the issue, people lose all perspective.
However, the South is a different country - smart, funny, serious, literate, wise and, these days, rich. I say this because I mean it and because I am about to fly to Dublin to lecture Jesuits - really - and I anticipate two days of pure delight.


  1. Agreed. The general reverent, terribly worthy tenor of the coverage yesterday evening across UK news outlets was excruciating.

    Without wanting to trivialise some of what has gone before (others have done a much finer job of that), the whole situation seems to me to have descended into nothing more than schoolboy Machiavellism in a playground of idiots.

  2. I completely agree.

    It is a tedious story of childish, petty, futile, meaningless hate.

  3. An unusually judgemental and controversial post for this blog Bryan?

    There are hundreds of widows and orphans across the Republic and the north who may justifiably attach more significance to yesterday's events than you and I might from our ivory towers - whatever the character of the principle players (which I wouldn't dispute).

    And speaking as someone with parents from Donegal and a staunch republican upbringing the fact that a fair proportion of those who wrecked havoc via the bomb and the bullet came from, where cheered on by or funded by those in the "smart, funny, serious, literate and wise" south also undermines your generalisation a little.

    I rarely leave intemperate comments like this but I guess I prefer the Bryan who ponders the meaning of Elton John or how long before we forget the clocks go forward!

  4. I didn't say it wasn't serious, Liam, I said it was pathetic.

  5. I'm taking issue with your suggestion it wasn't 'historic'.

    It may indeed be pathetic, regrettable, sad, even ridiclous as a news story but it's dismissing an awful lot of peoples hopes to suggest it's not historic.

  6. River of deceitMarch 27, 2007 1:43 pm

    Paisley looked like the demon from Poltergeist with that hat.

  7. You'll be dropping in for a snorter, Bryan? Edwina's really looking forward to seeing you - she's a different girl now that she's settled over here.

  8. The last time you commented on Ulster, I went off the deep-end and made a couple of rather intemperate and not entirely reasonable comments. This time I will desist. What I will say, however, is that it is difficult for those who are not from Ireland to fully appreciate what occurred yesterday. It was historic. It was also pathetic in some ways. But not in the sense of being derisory. There has been a lot of pain and sorrow endured over the years. The meeting yesterday was emotional dynamite for many. Look, we all have our stories. And in some ways, the laws of perspective do come into it: what is close seems important. What is further away...
    Hope you enjoy your trip to Dublin.

  9. I was not intending to offend anybody - except Paisley and Adams - nor to belittle anybody's suffering. My point is the terrible inflation of significance of which Ulster seems so fond. The original conflict - between Protestant demands for sovereignty and Catholic demands for civil rights - was rationally soluble and, if pressure needed to be exerted, it could have been by peaceful means. Ghandiism would have worked. What prevented this happening was this inflation and extension of the issues to, as it were encompass, all of history. This dehumanises and makes your opponent killable because it provides a cause that seems to stretch way beyond the matter of his own life or death. Perhaps, in a limited sense, this moment is historic, but to keep insisting on that plays into the hands of extremists. I believe in uncertainty - it is the subject of my Dublin lecture - and the imagination, not least because the combination of the two makes killing people almost impossible.

  10. they genuinely think that everything that happens in Ulster - population less than 2 million - is of absolute and pressing concern to the world - population a lot more than 6 billion.

    Now how do we disabuse the Palestinians of the same notion?

  11. I think what our esteemed Blog Master (leaving aside the snarling miserablenes of many of the province's key players about which Bryan is right) may be saying is all such conflicts become horrendously obsessional- not least to the professional hacks who spend a lifetime reporting the same story- and that it is the task of statesmen NOT to get locked into this 'discourse', the fate of Clinton's dealings with the Israelis and Palestinians. I also think it is telling about both Adams and Paisley that the deal was only brokered when Blair/Ahern threatened to cut off the MPs pay. That concentrated minds.

  12. Why should I want to go back
    To you, Ireland, my Ireland?
    The blots on the page are so black
    That they cannot be covered with shamrock.
    I hate your grandiose airs,
    Your sob-stuff, your laugh and your swagger,
    Your assumption that everyone cares
    Who is the king of your castle.
    Castles are out of date,
    The tide flows round the children's sandy fancy;
    Put up what flags you like, it is too late
    To save your soul with bunting...

    Louis MacNeice "Autumn Journal" XVI (1938)

    (Of course, for MacNeice it was love-hate and I've only quoted the hate).

  13. Thanks for that, j.. Joyce loved Ireland too, but also called her 'the old sow that eats her farrow.' Joyce made me love Ireland.

  14. "fly to Dublin to lecture Jesuits"
    I didn't think you could lecture Jesuits? :)

  15. ...The fact that these two freaks - who wouldn't, in any half way decent democracy, be allowed within ten miles of any real power - sat down together is not historic, it is pathetic. But, when Northern Ireland is the issue, people lose all perspective...

    Bryan, the reason you're where you are and I'm where I am is this sort of post. Well done.

  16. True, it's exactly true - but is it the complete story? Consider the people who. like me, live in Ulster. We will put up with this charade because we want the forces these people can unleash to go away. Dublin too, Bryan has a nasty, dirty little secret or two to hid Re; the North.

  17. When I first read your post, I was astounded, furious and was ready to spit; then I reread it, and tried to calm down ; finally I decided that you were absolutely right but.... as I come from Northern Ireland , I feel the situation a bit more keenly than perhaps yourself. I was a Protestant and , growing up there (before the latest "Troubles" started) was mostly grey, bitter and so divided. The main propaganda, taught at every State school (funded by England) was that I was British (we all called England the "Mainland" - can you imagine? ) I was taught English History and Geography - I knew all the industry for every town off by heart - I knew and learned little about the South, until I was older; I even had a British passport - I think I could have asked for an Irish one but might have been alienated if I had. I envied those in the Catholic schools who learned Irish; I admired their past bravery and their exotic if painful history. I opted for University in Dublin, seeing Belfast as grim grey and oh so dreary. ( I had to go to Trinity as UCD was only Catholic then )I found Dublin just as you describe it, and remarkably forgiving to us - wisely, they blamed the "English oppressors" for the state of affairs. At that time, the differences were that poverty was very apparent; the Health Service was appalling for the poor; there was not a comfortably-off working class. But there was the romance and excitement of the Irishness of it all.(and the pubs stayed open longer...) Now, when I visit my country - I suppose Northern Ireland IS a country, though we were told it was a Province of England- I feel an affinity for my countrymen ; I am saddened by the history of these impoverished English and Scottish peasants who were dragged across the Sea to settle in the North, to help keep the Irish peasants distracted.("divided we fall") Whilst I despise and hate the bigots, I had some in my family- every family did, I think- I understand the fears of being abandoned, and of having no identity, which can create aggression; everyone deserves to have an identity - see the former slaves still struggling with this, having been deprived so severely. Finally, you say Gandhiism would have worked - well , that is so, but are you not then saying that war anywhere in the world could be avoided ? How do you stop the bully-boys from exisiting - if there is a weakness, they will be there always. I think the "Historic" part is that bombing and killing has ceased and that is a cause for celebration. I do think as well that Ulster is finally changing - they have street cafes now for God's sake.

  18. Very interesting, Janejill. I'm not certain if my memory is correct but I'm pretty sure that I've in the past seen Northern Irish weather forecasts in which the rest of the island of Ireland had mysteriously disappeared; the North to those unarmed with contradictory extrinsic information, being an island of the 6 counties. The kind of mindset that would end up with such infantilism deeply troubled.

  19. "they have street cafes now for God's sake"

    An unfortunate turn of phrase, perhaps?

  20. Andrew - I don't think you quite get it. Would a weather forecast for France show Germany ??