The day after Hallowe’en and my local
supermarket was already putting up the Christmas decorations.
If there is one thing guaranteed to make my blood boil and
see red (no, not a man in a red suit) it is a canned November
rendering of ‘Jingle Bells’ or some other jolly
Christmas ditty. Give us a break, Mr Dunne and Mrs Tesco.
Christmas is coming but, no, it is not here yet. Going green
includes eating seasonal food, and I must say I go rather
green (in colour) when I have something as out of season as
Christmas decorations or music in early November.
Polish it off
You come across racist graffiti on a wall, such as “Polish
out”. What do you do? Well, it was broad daylight so
I didn’t do anything but I was just thinking what you
could do; a bit of constructive change, with your spray can,
to “Polish are outstanding workers” or “Polish
your shoes without spittle”; while the latter is changing
the national adjective for Poland to a verb with a quite different
meaning, and therefore not so counter-cultural, it is still
taking the original hatred and denting it. And if people do
see from different lettering or whatever that a negative has
been turned into a positive, so what, the fact that someone
has cared enough to challenge such racism is the important
I must say I find white-on-white racism intriguing
and perplexing (though, I hasten to add, no more or less threatening
than white-on-black racism). I’m sure such racism exists
in the Republic as well as in Northern Ireland where it is
very, very close to its evil cousin, sectarianism. What can
you say? ‘Anyone’ who is different is to be feared,
detested, reviled. Of course there are many issues to do with
opening borders, changing work patterns, mobility, change
in general and so on, but the idea of Irish people being racist
is like turkeys who have avoided Christmas one year, voting
for it the next. There are certainly racist attributes to
the experience of some Irish people in the USA, Britain and
Australia, but for a people who have been the butt of so much
racism in the past (and this applies to people in both North
and South since partition, however they might label themselves)
Meanwhile, there is some probably good news
from the Republic where a recent poll (commissioned by the
Steering Group of the National Action Plan Against Racism)
showed increased contact with new communities (67% of people
now have mixed with newcomers to Ireland compared to just
36% three years ago) – and a generally more positive
view of these new communities. To coin a phrase, perhaps you
could say it is a case of familiarity breeding content. There
are however concerns expressed by many native Irish people
on numbers of foreign nationals, the replacement of Irish
workers by others, and the perceived link with a rise in crime.
And you can never tell the extent to which interviewees tell
researchers ‘respectable’ views they think they
want to hear – but, unless the native Irish have become
markedly better at lying over these three years it does look
like some good news at least.
First minister v. moderator
Is Ian Paisley, the Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church,
speaking to Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist
Party? I definitely think on past form one should be boycotting
the other. A picket with placards would be grand with, of
course, “Come ye out from among them” featuring
prominently as he pickets himself. I do personally, of course,
welcome the recent meeting which the leader of the DUP had
with Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and head of the Catholic
Church in Ireland, along with their respective entourages,
but how does this wear with Paisley’s two hats? If he
is going to have this kind of meeting should some shift not
come in the Theological Department as well?
I ask this because I am thinking of the virulent
and indeed violent, and inflammatory, language which Ian Paisley
has used about the Catholic Church even in recent years. Take
the following extract from a sermon he preached as recently
as 1998 (as reprinted in the Free Presbyterian Church official
organ, “The Revivalist”, November 1998):
“A lecherous priest, guilty of the vilest
of crimes and acts of gross indecency against young children,
the Church of Rome claims, has the power to order Christ from
heaven and turn Him into water and into wine. It matters not
whether that priest is drunk or he is sober, Christ is at
his command. That, my friend, is the greatest blasphemy of
any false religion that was ever positioned at the centre
of any religion in the world.
I asked where did it come from? It came from
hell. Where does it take people to? It takes them to hell.
Alas today tens of thousands of our fellow countrymen, poor
priest-ridden, superstitious Romanists, will think that because
they were at the mass they are prepared in a state of grace
for Heaven.” And so it goes on……
Is it any wonder some early paramilitaries fingered
Paisley as the person who led them up the garden path to violent
action? This language is grossly offensive. Of course he is
entitled to his views but I do not feel he is entitled to
depict those he disagrees with as basically the Spawn of the
Devil, depicting others as less than fully human. He could
make similar points with a modicum of respect rather than
a maximum of hate and bile. But that, unfortunately, has been
the Paisley pattern throughout his career.
He may be moderating his political spots enough
to enter cooperation with those on other sides. I would feel
that he should look at the beam in his religious eye as well.
The first casualty in
the arms trade - truth
It may also be partly true of war, but you don’t actually
have to go to war for it to happen because it is quite clear
to me that the first casualty in the arms trade is truth.
Take the two largest arms-related companies internationally
who have a presence in Norn Iron; Raytheon and Thales (ex-Shorts
Missile Division). Raytheon set up a computer operation in
Derry, supported by nearly all political parties (and not
opposed by Sinn Féin) and also by Nobel Peace Prize
winner John Hume. Raytheon vehemently asserted that they would
only be working on civilian contracts in Derry. What happens
a few years down the line? Ex-employees come out and state
categorically that military contracts are very much part of
the work they do and did and even the major part (see NN 119,
quoting from ‘Derry News’ of 22nd April 2004).
The hope is that Derry City Council, which previously resolved
that it “wants no part of that [arms] trade here in
this city” (NN 116) will make Raytheon feel rather uncomfortable
with its lies and its military work.
Meanwhile Thales in Castlereagh, Belfast, continues,
as it has been for a very long time, to be the biggest bomb
factory in that town. Journalist Sam McBride, writing in the
‘Belfast Telegraph’ of 21st September 2006, had
made a Freedom of Information request that Invest NI (the
Norn Iron investment agency akin to the IDA in the Republic)
reveal the countries to which Thales exports its Belfast made
missiles (Thales has previously claimed exports to sixty countries).
This was refused, invoking exemptions and arguing that disclosure
would “prejudice relations between the UK and another
state”, and also that Crown forces could be endangered
and commercial confidentiality breached. So that’s all
right then. We won’t tell you the truth because it would
be explosive in many ways but it’s OK to go on doing
what we have been doing and supplying dodgy dictatorships,
corrupt regimes and countries that can’t afford it the
high-tech miracles that are missiles made in Belfast. The
statement acknowledges there would be trouble if people knew
the truth. How sad. Why can’t we have the truth and
then a rational debate? Answer: Because they know they would
lose the debate by getting off to a terrible start from their
point of view, that’s why. So ‘the answer’
is to hide the truth away. However the truth will, as truth
usually will, be out in time.
- - - - - - - -
That’s me for now, I’ll be
back with you when the December winds blow and we are approaching
that frenetic time of the year known as the Christmas holidays.
Not bad when you get there, it’s the getting there that
gets me (to coin another phase).
Anyway, see ye soon, Billy.
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).