Well, another busy month over. If I told
you that I was involved as a perpetrator in a drive-by shooting
on St Patrick's Day, would you think a) I'd lost what marbles
I possessed, or b) I'd joined my favourite paramilitaries,
the Ulster Republican Association or the Irish Defence Army,
or c) I had sunk too many pints of green beer. In fact the
only drive-by gun shooting I ever witnessed was in Johannesburg
when a gun in a car accidentally discharged, peppering the
window of the café I was in with shot, shortly before
the first South African democratic elections in 1994. The
drive-by shooting I was involved in on Paddy's Day was a video
shoot of an establishment we were researching, shall we say,
all legal, but not wanting to draw attention to ourselves
'cos in Norn Iron you never know where that leads. Well, we
will draw attention to it in due course, but everything in
its time. So, on with the show.
I don't know about you, but with spring bulbs in full bloom
I sometimes wish that time could stand still, that the splendour
of colour and the promise of more to come could be held and
frozen. Deadheading daffodils I find a necessary but depressing
task; the first significant flowering of spring is on its
way out. As a gardener I know that as the plants grow that
you want to grow, so do the ones that you don't….and
as the unproud possessor of a garden that has a weed that
is a success story from the time of the dinosaurs, known as
mare's tail (I also call it other things but this is a newssheet
that doesn't major in rude words), I understand this only
too well. But in wishing for time to stand still I know that
if it did then I'd soon get fed up with daffodil and narcissus
time. Grounddaffodil Day would get to be a bit boring. So,
enjoy it while I can.
Another sign of spring was earlier this year
too, the 'Dump wood here' sign that appeared on a roadway
in a Protestant part of the neighbourhood here in Belfast.
It was, of course, the start of gathering anything combustible
for the Twelfth of July. But for one magnificent and polluting
blaze on the Eleventh Night there are several months gathering
of rubbish, and the charred remains of grass and leftover
bits afterwards. Normally it's May or thereabouts before anyone
gets their collecting act together but this year, February.
Must be to do with global warming. It's certainly not to do
with community relations warming locally anyway.
Now that the DUP is the largest party in duh Nort, moves seem
to be afoot to project Ian Paisley as some kind of Senior
Statesman, kindly old gent, cuddly granddad, and general all
round Nice Guy. See, for example, the recent 3-day profile
(24th - 26th February 2004) of him in the Belfast Telegraph
by one of their right-wing correspondents, Gail Walker, which
was given access to the family photograph album. He has Catholic
friends. He loves his family and grandchildren. He is a good
constituency representative standing up for citizen rights
of Catholics as well as Protestants. All these things are,
one must presume, completely true, bona fide, honest to God.
But he shouldn't get off so lightly. What should
not be ignored is that Ian Paisley was a key figure in the
evolution of the Troubles. Without the Protestant backlash
to the civil rights campaign and movement for change, in which
backlash Paisley was a militant key figure, would the Troubles
have emerged in the same form they subsequently took? What
was he doing, literally and metaphorically, leading men up
hillsides waving gun certificates in the middle of the night?
Maybe he can separate love for what he sees as the sinner
(Catholics) from hatred of the sin (Catholic actions and beliefs)
but many of those who he preached his gospel of condemnation
and abhorrence to were not so nuanced. Ian Paisley led many
people up the garden path of paramilitarism; maybe he himself
declined to enter right through the door and into the house
of paramilitarism, but, arriving at the door, it seemed the
logical thing for many other people to go in. And unlike those
who went in the door he did not have to suffer the consequences.
Maybe Papa Doc has mellowed to a certain extent.
Whatever he may think privately, the EU is no longer effectively
labelled as a Roman Catholic conspiracy. For example, the
DUP EEC election literature in 1984 stated; "Those who
are acquainted with the Bible will be aware of the prophetic
significance of the coming together of the predominantly Roman
Catholic nations of Europe in the EEC amalgam. As Daniel,
against his will, found himself in Babylon and raised a faithful
and fearless voice there, so Ulster in the Common Market against
her will, must have a faithful and fearless voice there also."
As my column in 'Dawn' magazine said at the time - "There
we go, conspiracy theory, false biblical prophecy and megalomania
all in just a few lines." Many, many of the things he
condemned out of hand are fully accepted today.
But if 'by their fruits shall ye know them'
then his past has not been fruitful in contributing positive
ideas for the future of Norn Iron. Now, having arrived at
majority party pole position, the onus is on the DUP to come
up with the goods; even they realise 'no' is not good enough.
We look forward to seeing whether he has actually changed
or just mellowed in the presentation as opposed to the content
of his views. Everyone deserves the opportunity to change,
and be judged to have changed, even at 77 or 78 years of age.
But while the future has yet to be made and history can be
rewritten, the truth of the past is hard to hide; Ian Paisley
was a key part of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It would
be good if he atoned for his past misdeeds (to use some Christian
terminology) by some meaningful moves to accommodate Catholics-stroke-
nationalists politically. Cooperation should not entail reneging
on ideals; but it does entail pragmatic give and take.
In Dublin's fair city
(where the houses are so pretty unaffordable)
A recent sojourn in Dublin reminded me of a weekend there
thirty years ago, yes, in the early mid-70s, makes me feel
old to be writing about three decades ago. In our company
was an Australian resident in Europe with very long curly
hair. While well into his early twenties he could have engendered
the epithet ['engendered the epithet'? Write long-windedly
like that much more and I'll give you an epithet - Ed] of
distinguished, or slightly trendy, rather than scruffy. Anyway,
we set about our business. Going for a pint in O'Neill's off
Dame Street he was refused service because of his long hair.
He then decided to seek out some weed, and not being an expert
in sourcing same I advised this guy to enquire discretely
at a well known alternative-type café of the time;
but he canna do cannabis either because the one person offering
was only willing to sell more in quantity and price than he
was willing to pay. Then, nothing to do with being refused
service or anything, he decided to get his hair cut, not short,
but cut; the inexplicable answer he received where he went
was a refusal to cut his hair because it was too long! I think
he still enjoyed his weekend (and it was only one pub he was
refused service in) but it was hard not to empathise with
him when he said; "All I wanted to do in Dublin was have
a drink, have a smoke, and get my hair cut. And I was refused
all of them." Makes the Seventies seem so innocent now.
Times have changed, and Dublin has changed even more than
most; "as the grey unyielding concrete makes a city of
our town" sums up some of the atmospheric change but
to be truthful a lot of it is looking better, even if living
there financially is a difficult act for so many.
No time for beating
about the Bush
If the Irish Times report by Conor O'Clery on 22nd March is
to be believed, George Bush's visit to Ireland in June may
only last just over 12 hours - including an overnight stay!
So anyone who wishes to indicate their feelings to the erse-twile
'Leader of the Free World' (i.e. feeling free to help himself
to anything in the world that is in the USA's interests) will
need to get their skates on.
According to the report, by the IT's US correspondent,
he'll [hell? -Ed] arrive late on 25th June (Friday) and stay
outside Dublin, possibly Dromoland Castle (Clare) or Ashford
Castle (Mayo). The EU-US summit on Saturday 26th June will
last two hours, followed by a working lunch and GWB's departure
to Turkey. If this is correct then rumours (including in the
Belfast Tele) about him coming to Norn Iron are inaccurate.
While I don't believe in protesting for protesting's
sake, Bertie Ahern's arrogance in calling for people not to
protest takes some beating, particularly given the strong
groundswell in Ireland against the Iraq war which Bertie himself
shamefully ignored and tried to distort. The last time Bush
was here it changed my life, yes folks, GEORGE BUSH CHANGED
MY LIFE! Admittedly in a fairly minor way, but change it he
did. I normally gave up consumption of caffeine when ill and
I managed to get a sore throat (but not really a coffee) out
protesting which included getting airborne off the road, courtesy
of PSNI, in Hillsborough. It was difficult to shake the sore
throat off, and by the time I did I decided to give up regular
consumption of tea and coffee. I do still indulge on occasions
but not regularly, so it's on to consumption of roasted barley
and acorns. I guess George Bush is just not my cup of tea.
But I wouldn't mind giving him a roasting when he comes again.
Well, that's the end of the Colm, I won't be
seeing you again until it is into May. So get planting those
seeds, if you have somewhere to do it, and if not just grow
bushy basil indoors on your windowsill and have the neighbours
wondering what exotic substances you're cultivating. See you
is Billy King? A long, long time ago, in a more
innocent age (just talking about myself you understand),
there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train'
and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor
has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write
a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able
to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor
around with you).
Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman
pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little
about horses even if someone with a similar name is
found astride them on gable ends around certain parts
of Norn Iron).