Well, last time I was speaking to you it was
before Christmas and now it’s February, given mild weather
flies time it well. The days are noticeably brighter in my
neck of the woods by the end of January and that is great,
days stretching themselves. The few frosty, clear days we’ve
had until recently were more than usually welcome in indicating
that global warming hasn’t won completely yet but, they’ve
been far, far fewer then would be expected by standards of
twenty, or even ten, years ago. And, as the models predict,
we’ve had plenty of wind. Ochone, ochone, not chilled
to the bone.
Nothing drives people up the wall so fast or so furiously
as a dispute with their neighbour. There are a number of reasons
for this; it’s always in your face, home is where you
relax from the stresses and strains of the world outside,
and you are used to a particular situation which a new neighbour,
or an old neighbour who has changed something, has radically
altered from your point of view. There is a certain amount
of truth in the old adage that “Good fences make good
neighbours” (as one handler of stolen goods said to
another when they moved into the neighbourhood). Anyway, here’s
a little apocryphal story about a neighbour-neighbour dispute.
The mediator went out to do an initial assessment of a complaint
and discovered the dispute was about a boundary where an old
and wide hedge had been replaced by a new wooden fence. The
old hedge had ‘hedged’ where the boundary was
and the new fence was far too high, the complainant stated,
but the main issue was where the fence posts were put; the
complainant reckoned that they were a good two feet inside
their property rather than on the boundary, or, as they should
have been, actually on the fence erector’s property.
The complainant would like a lower fence but they definitely
wanted the fence posts moved back by almost a metre. The mediator
doing the assessment bumped into a colleague later in the
day, who asked how they got on with this neighbour-neighbour
case: “It’s exactly like the Northern Ireland
situation”, she said, “It’s a post conflict
They’re certainly a nuisance, deleting them by the barrow
load, scam/’419’ e-mails that is. Most times the
plot is entirely predictable (boring), and the subject title
may be enough to know it’s for the bin. Occasionally
one makes you look a second time. When I received one headed
“OFFER FROM GOD ALMIGHTY” I had to laugh, though
the rest was the usual dying widow wanting to donate a barrow
load of money my direction. The Headitor received one about
an engineer in South Africa with the same surname who left
loads of lolly but no will, purporting to be trying to contact
someone with the same surname who might be related; little
did the scammer know that there are only half a dozen people
in the world with that surname, which only came into existence
less than three decades ago, and certainly none of them dead
engineers in South Africa. But it was an example of a scam
being specifically targeted at an individual. Another new
one recently purporting to be from the US Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) was regarding contact ’I’
was meant to have had with the Central Bank of Nigeria about
money from a third party; it warned that some ‘unscrupulous
people’ were impersonating Central Bank of Nigeria officials
so ‘I’ should only get in touch with the ‘real
office’ of the bank, which they kindly provided. Some
people go to so much trouble to be helpful….when they
want to get their hands on your bank account details. As I
have advised before, you can while away a fascinating hour
or more, after a web search, looking at information about
the scammers and those who take them on, some with even more
ludicrous stories and demands before they can ‘give’
their bank details, which, of course, they never do.
Coming round the bend
I accompanied the Norn Iron group to Faslane Trident missile
base, half an hour’s drive north of Glasgow, back at
the start of December; it’s the nearest nuclear weapons
base to Ireland, pretty near in fact. One of Gene Sharp’s
‘198 varieties’ of nonviolent action is “Self
exposure to the elements” and it certainly felt like
that when a friend decided to sleep in a summer tent at the
south gate and I joined them….the snow was on the hills
and that there tarmac was cold and hard. And the second day
it bucketed rain. But it was fascinating to see the Axes of
Evil at work, not in any detailed, intimate way but simply
the routinisation of gross and barbaric violence. Because
that it what it is. It is not a ‘deterrent’, it’s
an abhorrent. If it is not used it robs the people of the
UK of money which could be used to fund the health service
or help avoid global warming. A replacement would rob the
people of the UK significantly more. Is the UK really going
to unleash dozens of 18x Hiroshima somewhere? A ‘deterrent’
is only a potential ‘deterrent’ is the holders
are prepared to use it (and the British nuclear deterrent
is totally dependent on US targeting). Meanwhile everyone
with aspirations to world power, or ‘deterrence’,
wants one too.
Five of our number (Ann, Miriam, Mark, Mairead,
Phil) were arrested for a lock-on lie down protest on the
road and it was interesting to see the police at work with
their cutters (which as far as I am aware, work by vibrations
and only cut through hard objects so skin/flesh is safe).
Most people in Scotland are against Trident though obviously
there are also jobs at stake locally. The Strathclyde police
were ‘doing their job’ but seemed genuinely friendly
enough, even if fluffy is their policy. I did tease one officer
that they were allowed help us take down our banners (draped
over base signs and fences etc) but not put them up, and asked
an inspector if I could go in with the bucket and mop I was
wielding to “clean up Trident” (she said no).
Being part of ‘Faslane 365’ was a privilege and
I hope to go again – how’s about yourself? The
weather will be getting better soon so a visit to Scotland
might be just the ticket. “Oh flower of Scotland, when
will we see your likes again, that stood against him, Tony
Blair’s army, and sent him homeward, to think again”.
That would be good but unfortunately Tony Blurr made up his
mind a long time ago on a variety of subjects, including Trident
replacement, and seems incapable of thinking again on anything,
and his replacement by Brown this year, or whenever, will
make no difference.
Adolf Awards 2007
Laddies and lassies, ladies and gentlemen, buoys
and ghirls, cailíní agus buachaillí,
we bring you, at vast expense, our nominations for the Adolf
Awards ceremony of 2007, for Conspicuous Disservice to Peace.
Our hand-picked [nose-picked? – Ed] team of experts
(all of them were pert in their time) have been combing through
the last year to see who was deservous of the highest accolades
that we have to offer. In the North of this island, and elsewhere
(cf Bono, Geldof, O’Reilly) some go for OBEs, CBEs and
night hoods (these hoodies are dangerous), though –
despite my ‘royal’ name - I personally wouldn’t
want associated with the ‘British Empire’ (that’s
what the ‘BE’ stands for). Meanwhile [very mean
while – Ed] we have a variety of individual awards within
our overall ‘Adolf Awards’, named, of course,
after the most famous person in the 20th century to bear that
name. So, without more ado, we proudly present our awards…….those
listening in audio/stereo should turn down the volume to avoid
ear damage from the drum roll!
Global Warmers (Emperor Nero) Award:
The Irish and British Governments, the governments
in the two jurisdictions on this island, for their pathetic
response to global warming. The Irish government seems to
think it is a matter of buying carbon credits, the British
that a few pounds extra on air tax will make everything fine
(Tony Blair thought it was fine for him to jet around the
world as much as he liked because scientists will find an
answer). Waiting on everyone else is not going to get it sorted.
Global Warmers (Head in the Clouds)
Award: Michael O’Leary of Rian-Air for being
so ebullient in avoiding the obvious, air travel sucks (lots
of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere).
Brown Envelope Champion (Undefeated):
Posthumous award to Charles J Haughey for going to
his grave undefeated – discredited, yes – but,
besides, with prices in the Republic you can’t buy much
with the equivalent of €43 million anyway (the amount
he is estimated to have accepted in bribes and ‘donations’)..
Prevaricator Procrastinator Award: Ian
Paisley. Usually the recipient of our Political Dinosaur Award,
this year Ian Paisley learnt to say ‘maybe’. If
only he had learnt this basic five letter word four decades
ago we might have been spared a significant amount of the
violence in Northern Ireland since.
Traynor Award for Financial Wrecktitude:
An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, whose propensity to write blank
cheques (for one Charles J Haughey) was well publicised during
the year. Or maybe he should just have received a ‘conservationist’
award for his saving in ink by leaving them blank?
Multinational of the Year:
Shell, for trying to make shell-shocked mayo-nnaise of protesters
against their explosive gas pipeline and terminal plans in
Co Mayo (‘terminal’ for who?). Oh, (S)hell were
backed up by the Garda ‘Síochana’ whose
level of accountability for their gross over-reactions will
hopefully one day approach that of the PSNI; some ‘good’
examples of how not to do policing.
The P. O’Neill Sunningdale for
Slow Learners Award: To the IRA, better late (time)
than late (dead). The loyalist paramilitiaries are proving
even slower to learn where things are going.
Double Taxation Award (‘No taxation
without misrepresentation’): The Norn Iron
Office for introducing water charges, as an unannounced precursor
to privatisation, in addition to existing local taxes (rates)
which were also rising significantly for many.
Religious Knowledge Award (Advanced):
To the good councillors of Belfast who never noticed
during Tom Ekin’s mayoralty (2004-5) that ‘readings
from scripture’ were from a variety of religions, not
just Christian…..and no one twigged (the regulations
only stipulated ‘scripture’ not ‘Christian
‘Green’ (as in ignorant)
Newspaper of the Year: The ‘Irish Times’
for running not one but two features in the run up to Christmas
on shopping trips to New York, neither with any mention of
the carbon cost.
Bush-Whacked Award: To the
long-suffering people of Iraq, you deserved something better
than carnage and civil war.
Saddam Hussein Martyrdom Award: Saddam
Hussein himself, an executioner executed (he was killed to
prove that killing people is wrong); his calm while being
taunted in his last minutes of life probably won him more
respect than anything he ever did.
Actor of the Year Award: Michael
Stone, whose attempt to violently attack Sinn Féin
members at Stormont was later defended in court as ‘street
theatre’ – perhaps the old US term ‘guerrilla
theater’ might have been more accurate. He also wins
(jointly with some other loyalists and ‘dissident’
republicans) the Northern Ireland – Failure To Move
Sycophants of the Year Award:
The News Letter, the Belfast Telegraph and other Northern
media who portray Ian Paisley as an ‘elder statesman’
now that he is political top dog rather than as one of the
primary powerhouses of the Troubles that he has been throughout.
The Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak
No Evil Award: Bush and Blair had to get some award,
didn’t they….you thought we were forgetting them.
Particularly marks to George Bush for thinking that more of
the same militarist policy that got everyone into such an
appalling morass in Iraq would get him out. Bad idea, George.
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).