Well, Ian and Bertie are about to bite the political dust this month so there's a little bit about them both in my Colm. Where would we commentators and satirists have been without them? Anyway, on with the show. Peter and Brian won't be quite the same though doubtless they'll make some appearances in this space in due course, of course.
The sum of a preacher man
A headline in the 'Daily Mirror' proclaimed "Queen in secret visit to Paisley" (13th March 2008) which they said was in order for Her Maj to thank His Max for his role in the peace process. They did meet officially as part of a visit to Norn Iron by the Queen of England a week or ten days later, and if they did meet secretly as well, well, then, we would have had a fly on the wall (and a spider on the ceiling). So we can record, thus would have spake the Queen:
"Dr Paisley, I am delighted that we should meet again and I wanted to pay tribute to you for all that you have done in Northern Ireland. In the 1960s you almost single-handedly invented or developed modern loyalist extremism and the sharp-edged sectarianism which was to be such a feature of the Troubles - one of your first political actions then was to organise a march opposing the lowering of Belfast City Hall's Union flag on the death of Pope John XXIII - and in the 1979 European elections you and your party portrayed what is now the EU as a threat to Protestantism and as a Catholic conspiracy. You were careful to stay just on the right side of the law (being with massed ranks of men waving gun certificates in 1981 notwithstanding, and the subsequent 'Third Force'). You resisted any change in anything, interpreting any move in any direction as a sell-out. You were always an expert in offensive and inflammatory language. You were closely involved in toppling a number of Unionist prime ministers including notably O'Neill and later Faulkner and eventually Trimble. You came late into the 1974 Ulster Workers Council strike but you jumped on the rolling bandwagon and gained politically through it. You were involved in organising what was an abortive political strike in 1977 and did not, as you had promised to do, leave politics if it failed. And in the political doldrum years of the 1970s and 1980s you continually resisted political progress and became synonymous with the word 'NO' (in capital letters). As Sinn Féin and the IRA gradually moved away from violence, no thanks to you, you continually tried to undermine their being brought in from the cold. Even some years after the ceasefires of 1994 you opposed, and continued to oppose, the 1998 'Good Friday Agreement' tooth and nail. Oh yes, I almost forgot - you have been quite cooperative and conciliatory the last year or so, thank you so much, it has been very helpful. As for the rest, it was really awful."
Although I am of the Christian persuasion, I don't usually use religious language in this Colm for a variety of reasons including a) it is read by people of all beliefs, religious and secular, and b) 'Christian language' can come across as being old-fashioned and other-worldly and my concern here is effective communication on a whole range of issues. But what did I espy in the Winter (2007/8) edition of Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church 'Messenger' newssheet (used for distribution around the local area) but "A Word from the Minister", i.e. Rev Dr Ian R K Paisley:
"Conversion is a wonderful thing! When God takes a person from the dunghill of his sin, changes his mind and his heart and his inmost soul and puts away all wickedness by the cleansing power of the Saviour's blood, that soul is saved from death!" ......Only God can do that miracle! God has justly told us that they are eternally hidden, the forgiven sins of his people! They were once before Him, but now they are behind Him forever."
Hallelujah I say, he could be writing about his own conversion from the ways of hatred and political disruption and negativism, his conversion to cooperation and compromise, and even bridge-building as opposed to bridge-wrecking ('bridges go over to the other side' as another, Unionist MP was known to say) which characterised most of his career. When you consider what has been wrought (to enter the appropriate old-fashioned religious language) in terms of the change in Ian Paisley, even 'Hallelujah' seems a bit weak and a few 'Hosannas' and 'Amens' or shouts of 'Praise the Lord' seem in order. Or, as the 'Good Book' has it, "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine respectable people who do not need to repent." (Luke 14.7) And to that I say amen, A-MEN.
Preparing for major emergencies
The 'Preparing for major emergencies - An introduction' booklet was recently distributed to every household in the Republic (see also www.emergencyplanning.ie ), causing a certain amount of mirth among some people and commentators. But it is a deadly serious matter. The genesis of the project is meant to be partly that Joe and Joan Public, as shown by opinion surveys, wanted to know that the government was prepared for emergencies. As ever, Billy King has got to the heart of it all by here publishing the notes for the very first draft before they were processed by ministers (including Wily O'Dear, Minister for De Fence, who along with Birdie wrote the intros to the booklet, and various uncivil servants). Yet another Billy King EXCLUSIVE, please note this first draft comes from some time ago, well before Der Taoiseach's announcement of imminent resignation (but after everyone else's feeling of resignation at his financial scandals) :
"1) What is a major emergency? A major emergency is when people keep asking questions about Bertie's finances and won't give up. Something may have to be done.
2) Flooding: a) Unfortunate issues arising from the (now renamed) 'Flood Tribunal', a k a 'Tribunal of Inquiry Into Certain Planning Matters and Payments', b) The result of too much water. Advice about b); The only sensible thing is to stop global warming and rising sea levels by switching to renewable energy a s a p, as well as stopping inappropriate building developments, but we won't mention all that.
3) Hazardous chemical spills: Nothing compared to politically hazardous spills, see 1) and 2) above.
4) Accidents at sea; without our beloved Bertie at the helm, we would all be at sea.
5) Explosions and suspicious packages; Our Bertie single-handedly wrought peace in the Nort, thus making explosions and suspicious packages much less of an explosive issue. Otherwise most suspicious packages come from the government just before an election, and we certainly don't want to publicise the volatility of those.
6) Nuclear incidents: If you are reading this in the event of a major nuclear emergency you can, in the words of that ould traditional ballad sung by both the Dubliners and by Christy Moore, kiss your arse goodbye. If you are reading this before a major nuclear emergency, well, we hope you won't stop reading and do the sensible thing like join CND or some other poxy peace group, we couldn't have that.
7) Pandemic Influenza: 'One flu over the cuckoo's nest'
8) Animal diseases; A cuckoo in the nest, get it out.
9) Fire; Get out, stay out (instructions regarding blazing buildings etc only, for blazes sake, and does not apply to short-changed trade unions and workers).
10) How can I prepare? As the saying goes, "if it was me, I wouldn't start from here."
Editorial note: We do of course support proper disaster planning, that's why the government is there, to plan the disaster. [How dare you impersonate an editorial comment, I didn't say or write that - Ed] [No, you wouldn't have the wit - Billy] [Or the half-wit like yourself, this matter is now closed - Ed] [Like your mind - Billy] [The only thing open about your head is your mouth - Ed] [Enough! - Joe and Joan Public]
Coping without Scope
It is an interesting comment on the times we live in, and the changes happening technologically, that NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action) has ceased production of its printed maggerzine, 'Scope', which has been published for the last 32 years. Yes, it's meant to be doing an online magazine as well as its other substantial website coverage (including 'NICVA News' at http://www.nicva.org ) but it certainly wouldn't feel the same - the printed page has a feeling of import, not to mention portability, that the computer screen does not [sez he in his online column! - Ed]. 'Scope' wasn't always the most exciting of magazines but it didn't need to be and you knew you'd get good solid coverage and analysis of community issues in the North and that's sad to see go from the printed page.
The final issue had some normal news (e.g. "A new report by Save the Children shows that one child in five is living in persistent poverty in Northern Ireland, double the level in the rest of the UK") as well as a run down of changes and issues over the years, with some people looking back; Andy Pollak, Avila Kilmurray, Fiona Veitch, Bill Smith, Eamonn Deane, Margaret Ward, Paul McGill, Quintin Oliver, Duane Farrell and Lyndsay Truesdale Maggie Beirne, recently departed director of the CAJ/Committee on the Administration of Justice, wrote a piece on human rights and appeared in an accompanying photo of INNATE monitors arriving on the Garvaghy Road, Portadown, to observe the July Sunday Drumcree parade in 1991. I must be getting old cos that feels like yesterday, and in historical terms it was yesterday, but so much has changed in the North in the time since then it's a political aeon ago. The time's they are a-changin' in lots of ways and keeping up is becoming more onerous all the time. [Speak for yourself - Ed] [I believe in doing just that rather than speaking for other people like some......... - Billy]
I, Sosceles typo corner
"Hello 45 Degrees, you're looking well today, though I must say you're only half the size of 90 Degrees over there. What's that you said, 180 Degrees? You're going to go straight from now on? That's good, I'm very glad to hear that and there's no point in going round in circles like 360 Degrees, who's always beating about the bush, isn't that right? Anyway, let's all hang out here for a while together, but don't worry about me giving you the third degree." What prompted this little bit of communication by degrees? Well, the 'Irish Times' TV & Radio guide (in their 'Magazine' for 26/4/08) covering 30th April had a paragraph about a programme on TG4: "Críostaíocht....This week's programme looks at the enduring appeal of angels, from old paintings and mosaics to present-day iconic images of cherubs and seraphs.......Finally, we meet Ronna Herman, who claims she can commune with angles in today's world." Maybe she can see round corners too. Or maybe she's a medium and they are Angles (as in Angles and Saxons). So am I right, or am I angling for something? Am I an acute observer or being a bit obtuse? Or do I have the right angel at all? [Sounds like the sharp end of the wedge to me, and just how many angles would fit on a pinhead? - Ed] [As I've said before, I thought I was the one meant to bake the puns around here - Billy]
Well, that's sufficiently absurd to end off on [You never have a problem with that - Ed], so until the next time we meet, take care of yourself and others, see you soon, the 'summer' is a-comin' in, 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).