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Editorial: Northern Ireland - Wrong deal, no deal

Eco-Awareness with Larry Speight: Lessons from Grenfell Tower

Readings in Nonviolence: Alternatives to Violence Project impact

Billy King: Rites Again

Billy King

Issue 118: April 2004

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News.]

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.

Spring
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.

Rehabilitating Papa Doc
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 then,

Billy.

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News.]

Who 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).

Copyright INNATE 2014