Thursday, July 6, 2017

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Catholics In Them Thar Cave Hills

Anthony McIntyre finds little to be either interested in or surprised about in the recent politics of the British-run North of Ireland. 

They have done it again, just as when Bill Clinton so aptly described their addiction to process and aversion to outcome:

every time they do it they are like a couple of drunks walking out of a bar for the last time. When they reach the swing doors they turn right around and go back in and say 'I just can't quite get there.'

It is hard to work up the energy to care about it, read about it, listen to the radio about it, watch television about it. What about it and so what? Here come the sandwich board men warning of the dire consequences of ignoring them. As Tim McGarry said back in the day, Give my head peace.

I confess, nay, boast, to taking very little interest in the Northern element to the recent UK general election. What happened there was of much less concern than what was going on in the UK. That is where the real power lies and not in London’s subcontracted Bantustan that spans six of the Irish counties. I read nothing about it other than in passing. And nobody that I talked to in Louth or Dublin had the remotest interest in what was going on in the North. Most eyes were on the Fine Gael leadership race, which was a contest between two people determined to protect the status quo, one of whom seemed to promise to do it marginally less austerely. Not terribly exciting, but at least they had not been running around the political mulberry bush for the past forty years screaming "crisis."

Something did catch my eye, however fleetingly. It was the battle for North Belfast, where first and second slots were preordained.

John Finucane as the Sinn Fein candidate was a surprise choice, even if it looked more like a headline grabber than a serious electoral strategy. Gerry Kelly had been around so long that any move off the stage on his part required a readjustment of the public's focus. Now that he continues to hover around photo ops like a ghost, that process of bringing Finucane into focus is prolonged. 

John Finucane was never likely to take the seat. As much as he might bring nationalists out, his insertion into the campaign by Sinn Fein would also produce an equal and opposite effect within unionism. Not the fault of Finucane, just one of those uncomfortable facts on the ground in North Belfast. 

It was a move that could only have stirred unionism to come out in numbers larger than before. The animus of political unionism is probably sparked more than normal when the name Finucane flashes across the black and white screen it watches, because of the uncomfortable and unpalatable truth the name stands for. If we were restricted to one word that conjures up a most damaging still shot of British perfidy, it is Finucane. 

Nigel Dodds was never vulnerable to assault from the son of the assassinated lawyer. If Finucane is to have an impact it will be in future elections. For now it is mission accomplished for Adams: he has found a plausibly deniable way to shaft the electoral dead wood of Gerry Kelly who would never have taken the seat had he contested it into his 90s. The DUP seat was safe no matter how long Kelly did the hustings.

The former IRA prisoner had queered the pitch last time round when, before blaming the Royal Mail, he lapsed into reading directly from the pages of Tim Pat Count The Catholics, leaving himself exposed to accusations of blatant sectarianism. It seemed not to dawn on him that, consistent with his logic, had Wolfe Tone been about and residing in the Cave Hill he would have voted DUP. While Kelly had improved considerably as a media performer since his early forays, the sense of entitlement and “don’t question me” demeanour, could be brought to the surface with the faintest of scratches.

Armed with John Finucane, Gerry Adams presented Kelly with an argument he could hardly refute on grounds other than vanity. It was a useful way to shaft him, as he has done with so many others over the decades. Kelly had to take it with a smile, and much like Tom Hartley, appear in as many photo ops as possible in a bid to ease the withdrawal symptoms, before eventually fading away to write poems about graveyards.

It shall then be confirmed: more people write poetry than read it.

7 comments :

DaithiD said...

Ah so Kelly found out there is more to politics than a Catholic headcount?

A Chinese tech guy (whose name escapes me) was contrasting the West with China, he suggested "In the West, you can change parties in power, but not policy. In China, you cant change parties, but you can change policy". I think variations of this are felt by many, who now want as little engagement with National politics as possible. I certainly fight to stay off electoral rolls when the bastards come knocking on my door before every election. I used to think it was a very juvelile, college kid thing to say "all politicians are liars", but after much study over the years, I am now back at that position.

If encryption methods are suitable to protect national security documents, they are suitable to protect new methods of democracy where we dont have interlocuters on our behalf making decisions. For example,in America, where vast distances had to be covered from some states, to sit in the national forum in the Capitol before modern transport was established it might of made sense to operate this way. It doesnt anymore, and dwindling participation rates become a real danger.

Steve R said...

AM

"John Finucane was never likely to take the seat. As much as he might bring nationalists out, his insertion into the campaign by Sinn Fein would also produce an equal and opposite effect within unionism. Not the fault of Finucane, just one of those uncomfortable facts on the ground in North Belfast.

It was a move that could only have stirred unionism to come out in numbers larger than before. The animus of political unionism is probably sparked more than normal when the name Finucane flashes across the black and white screen it watches, because of the uncomfortable and unpalatable truth the name stands for. If we were restricted to one word that conjures up a most damaging still shot of British perfidy, it is Finucane. "


I agree, it is the one name that is absolutely guaranteed to get the Unionist community fired up. But let's not kid ourselves that the atrocity that was his father's cold blooded murder is the only catalyst. It was quite clearly a war crime and state collusion also.

The Finucane name is synonymous with Maria Cahill's rape investigation by the Provo's, and it is no secret the Uncle threatened just about everybody involved with that investigation and even offered to have the alleged perpetrator murdered!

Unfortunately for John that's the baggage he has to deal with when his Uncle stand's behind him too.

PLayground politics. "He must have did something". You rightly pulled me up on that yonks back but that thinking is still prevalent in peoples minds more than either of us would like.

Niall said...

AM,
Yeah, Finucane replacing Kelly clearly signaled the end of Kelly's public career. Guillotined by Adams or Robespierre to warrant a better description.
As for Tom Hartley and his writings – the old Yellow pages advert comes to mind - Fly Fishing... by JR Hartley.....nobody stocked it never mind bloody read it!

DaithiD said...

Steve R, the Finnucane name is synonymous with victimhood from state collusion with death squads and elicits sympathy and respect much more than anything the Cahill case can tie to it.Even if you have a different political persuasion, you would surely want the State to act in a proper manner to all innocents under its jurisdiction? Collusion is such a murky business, totally out of keeping with the image Britian should want to project. It gave the world the basis for so many emancipatory laws, overtly flouting them for such short term gain just makes them look like cheap shysters. If the Unionists are fired up at the name, it should be at the un-British behaviour displayed by the state.

Steve R said...

DaithiD,

"Even if you have a different political persuasion, you would surely want the State to act in a proper manner to all innocents under its jurisdiction?"

Absolutely, but like I said, for the PUL community it comes down to 'Guilt by association'. A blind eye is/was turned to collusion as it was against the common enemy. I accept that Pat Finucane was not a member of the RM and I think even the RUC said he wasn't either. But in an attempt to justify such a murderous and barbarous act those looking for 'justification' found it easily by looking into his family. This was something I was guilty of too. But I have changed my mind on it by considering all the new information on the matter.

The PUL community has no cause to re-evaluate it though. And now SF has elected the son with the notorious Uncle standing behind him there is not a chance that is about to change anytime soon.

DaithiD said...

Steve, I could understand it then, but not now. When you see people like Hogg gone from the Tory front benches, replaced with people like Priti Patel for example, do you feel confident they value the Union with Ireland enough to stand over atrocities like the Finnucane murder?

Steve R said...

DaithiD,

"Steve, I could understand it then, but not now."

Why not? What has changed?

"do you feel confident they value the Union with Ireland enough to stand over atrocities like the Finnucane murder?"

I don't think they give two farts about the Union with NI, I would hazard a guess and say 75% of Tories don't care either. But political expediency being what it is they will make all the appropriate noises that they do, as long as it is Unionists votes that make them whole in the Commons.