Two Steps Back.
You know those days that come along every once in a while where you just feel totally and utterly bushwhacked, devoid of any capacity to function properly? Today is one of them. Without sounding too much like I’m standing staring into a raging abyss, I’m completely drained, bloody freezing and in dire need of six jars of the black stuff. Don’t listen to the man kids, the gargle is good for ye. As Homer rightly said, it’s “the cause of and the solution to all life’s problems”. Frustration’s the order of the day. We’ve all been there, trying to get something done , not knowing how to feckin’ do it. To slap some icing on the cake we’ve had another bomb here in Norn Iron.
I’ll readily admit to having an interest in politics. There’s a small part of me that would love to run for election, throw a few Daniel’s amongst the grannies. I then wake up, smelling the Nescafe, realising that in this neck of the world, such an exercise would be the epitome of pointlessness. As much as I’m fond of many people here in the Province, when it comes to politics and voting, they’re as thick as four cartons of contraband Superkings in a bingo hall. Small exceptions to every rule apart, they either vote on the basis of their religious convictions or because they believe the otherfla is the spawn of the anti-christ. I paused for a moment after writing that last sentence, to consider whether I was being too general in my tarring of the Northern Irish public. Luckily for them though I decided to leave my feathers at home. Sadly I believe Northern Irish politics is more about general matters than specifics and as such the people who vote for this pond-life deserve whatever ridicule they get.
The two largest parties, the Ballymena Hillbillies and the Illegitimate Sons of Peig pulled off a remarkable coup at the last election. Somehow or other they managed to achieve two remarkable feats of strategic electioneering. Firstly, the managed to persuade the shell-suited, sovereign ringed members of their respective tribal hinterlands to stop watching Jeremy Kyle and get out and vote. What’s equally as impressive and infinitely more disturbing, is that they managed to hypnotize the yummy mummies and jumpered dads into indulging in a spot of tactical voting, thus depriving the more liberal-minded parties of their traditional voter base. So now we’re left with two Bumble the Beadles and a horde of Olivers begging for scraps from the masters’ table. We have one lot who believe that all public documentation should be translated into a language spoken only by three bogmen and their donkeys in Donegal and the other lot who believe that to say yes to anything would be akin to having John Barrowman leading the faithful in hymnal praise in the Martyr’s Memorial. Subsequently we’re left with a political merryground whose anthem is “anything you can do, I can do nothing else but disagree with”. I can only imagine why the recent talks in Hillsborough took so long.
“No No No Gerry. We’re not having the Honey Chilli Chicken tonight. It’s brings Edwin out in a rash”
“Oh Buíochas le Dia, Nigel. What about the spring rolls?”
“Oh we can’t have anything vegetarian, Gerry, It’s a bit, well you know, fruity“
“In that case Nigel, I’m leaving here now and getting some mince and spuds. You can take it or leave it.”
“Sorry Gerry, but mince? Next you’ll be telling us that tonight’s entertainment is Graham Norton Live. Here! Have you considered Tikka Masala?”.
“That’s not a proper Indian, that’s a British bastardisation of a good curry”
You get the picture. However the majority of people in Northern Ireland can have no reason for complaint. You know what they say, don’t shit in your own bed. Or something to that effect. A false sense of fear engendered on both sides has created the vacuum we are now residing in. Unfortunately, as the more sensible forward thinking politicians in the province are marginalised, a familiar entity has entered the field of play, an invasion of unwanted streakers. All tits and beards you might say.
A number of months back BBC Newsline showed a press conference from some supposed birdwatching faction of a dissident republican movement. It might have been “Ogle the Herons” or something similar. It was a depressing blast to the past, right down the scraggy bumfluff on the chin of the chief speaker. I half expected him to stand up and reveal his Che Guevara tattoos. It was the 70’s and 80’s all over again. They were obviously educated which only compounds the depressing nature of it all. None were older than I am so where, in this modern, post-troubles enclave of Europe, were they getting the idea that a resumption of political violence would achieve the desired United Ireland. It’s a rhetorical question as we all know the answer. Into the political vacuum there steps the disaffected freedom fighter from the “armed struggle”. They detect a lack of leadership and stalemate. “The Proddies are still saying no and the Shinners are shining their shoes for them. The Brits are still here, driving round in unmarked white vans, spying on your families”. The seeds are being sown afresh. The only difference this time being that the “new” type of republican will have a degree before he goes to Maghaberry.
Admittedly there’ll always be those who believe that violence is the only option. It’ll be generations before this mindset is removed. The problem is that while Tweedledum and Tweedledee sit waving their hands at each other up at Stormont, society is struggling to cope with current change. We’re no longer in the boom years. As long as who marches where and who speaks what language dictates political debate, rather than education, housing and employment, then we’re all up the Lagan without any paddles. The ordinary citizen has a choice to make in May. Do you keep Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks in power all on their own or do you give Catweazle, McManus and Kung Fu their chance to try to make things better? Or will you just continue to cling to your comfort blankets, content with mediocre familiarity, unwilling to try to make a difference. Something has got to give in this matter, otherwise there’ll be a few short sharp shocks to the system, likely administered by Ruairi or Tomás and their bands of bearded bandits.