The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Most Important Election Ever - Again
Anthony McIntyre • 10. 11. 03

The run-up to election day in this place is a source of much entertainment for those like me who use our vote intelligently by spoiling it. Although if I were in Derry I would cast it for Eamon McCann. A vote thrown his way is like putting a few litres of fuel into a good engine that is going to keep firmly to the left side of the road. Not many in this election we can say that about. One of the most amusing aspects of pre-polling day hype is the extent to which the administration, through its new voter registration process is determined to deny the dead their long established right to vote. It always rang intemperate to hear oleaginous politicians complain about the lack of democracy here when even the dead, for long enough, could have a say in the affairs of the living.

Come out ye dead of Sleepy Milltown
Vote for me - your local clown

It doesn’t do to be too cynical: given that some of those elected would have little difficulty persuading many of us that they are in fact dead, perhaps extending proportional representation to the cemeteries had some democratic merit. Take Maurice Morrow of the DUP for example. He is one of those characters who, after you have met him, you always come away thinking you were at his funeral. And the event is so uneventful and Maurice so dull that the next time you meet him you will swear it is the first. Suzanne Breen wrote of how, when she was in the supermarket queue after a demanding day, she learned that Maurice Morrow had put out a statement. But what could it possibly be? The most original idea to afflict Maurice in years is 'bring back the B-Specials'. But Maurice has God on his side. Most of the big man’s supporter’s do. Maurice, however, must challenge even the die-hard Ballymena bible thumper’s faith: as Friedrich von Schiller felt, 'against stupidity the very gods fight in vain.'

Election coverage is great for another reason, because it is the one time when the liars have to out-lie themselves and make greater promises than they made last time round as they strive to convince us that this is the most important election ever – and they, needless to say, the most important candidates. In doing so they provide the hardware with which we can nail their feet to the floor between this election and the next one, as they skip and hop through the debris of their discarded undertakings, all the time squealing about how ungrateful we are. They sat up the best part of a night manufacturing some lie for our consumption, and then, selfish swine that we are, we refuse to believe it.

Election seasons, apart from guaranteeing reduced ratings for those who actually earn their living honestly performing as comedians, underscore the fact that politicians will say the silliest of things yet expect to be taken seriously by the electorate. Maybe they feel that if they repeat the ‘no alternative to us’ mantra often enough we might believe it and vote for them. Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein, tongue in cheek surely, claimed his party did a good job in the health ministry. Yet on its watch the joke was that a pizza gets to your house quicker than an emergency ambulance. But Gerry is at least consistent in his efforts to sustain the widespread belief that Sinn Fein only have three constantly good media performers - Adams, McGuinness and McLaughlin.

Apparently this was no where more evident than on a recent BBC Hearts & Minds broadcast. I missed the show but according to some of Gerry’s own colleagues, the Sinn Fein spokesperson on justice put in yet another dazzlingly inept television performance. Confronting Eddie McGrady of the SDLP he resorted to what the more politically correct types would call ageism. Whatever Joe Cahill thought of Gerry telling Eddie he was maybe too old has not yet made its way into the public discourse. But it is slowly dawning on an increasing number of Sinn Fein members that if the party is ever to mount a serious challenge to take the North Belfast Westminster seat from the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, then someone of the calibre of Eoin O Broin will need to step in and replace the 'ageing' and increasingly lacklustre Gerry.

Not to be outdone in the ‘trying it on’ stakes, Gerry’s leader - the Gerry that counts - called on the DUP to tell the truth. Now if the British National Party were to call on its opponents not to be racist, it would be laughed out of the television studios. Here, it is all part of the norm. And they claim we are the most politicised people in Western Europe. If we are it is because we turn the TV off each time that the wah wah men and women come on. Quentin Davis told the House of Commons that he could only think of two occasions in which it was alleged that ministers had lied to the same House. Apart from demonstrating that Quentin either does not think at all, doesn’t attend parliament, or does not read Hansard - this is one British record that will be broken every day if Sinn Fein abandon abstentionism. But that will hardly happen given that Sinn Fein are not known for abandoning core principles and beliefs.

Perhaps the greatest missed irony of all was reserved for the Workers’ Party. With absolutely no sense of self-application, John Lowry told his listeners that ‘a growing number of people in Northern Ireland are refusing to be labelled as either unionist or nationalist, Protestant or Catholic.’ A much larger number have demonstrated for years that they are not willing to be labelled as Workers’ Party. But the vanguard of the non-sectarian and class conscious proletariat doesn’t see it that way, just as it never saw its own armed wing.

Just to cap matters off, Gavin Esler provides us with a momentary lack of insight:

The idea that Gerry Kelly and Reg Empey would ever sit in a TV studio engaging in a tough but polite and civilised political debate never entered my head at the time. Nor did it enter theirs, I suspect … when I first came across Gerry Kelly he was not in a TV studio wearing a smart suit. He was in jail. He escaped from the IRA blocks in the Maze prison and was arrested by the Dutch authorities.

The reason it never entered Gavin’s head is that it was impossible to conceive that the man who started a major hunger strike thirty years ago this month and almost died as a result of it would come to embrace the British state’s alternative to republicanism. Gerry is the only element in Gavin’s troika that has changed. The TV studio is still there; Reg Empey always sat in it engaging in a debate while sporting a suit. And he always defended the consent principle and criticised acts of armed struggle designed to subvert it. Now he has Gerry Kelly sitting alongside him to support these points. Which brings us back to the issue of age and those perceptive words of Watterson Lowe: 'nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the face, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.'






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

10 November 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Address to Ard-Fheis 2003
Ruairí Ó Bradaigh


British Anti-Insurgency

Liam O Comain


From A Belfast Granny
Kathleen O Halloran


Planes, Trains and Big Wains!
Eamon Sweeney


The Most Important Election Ever, Again
Anthony McIntyre


What Went Wrong in the New South Africa?
Andrew Nowicki


7 November 2003


Ted Honderich Interview
Mark Hayes


Disappeared and Disapproved

Anthony McIntyre


HMP Maghaberry: First Flames from a Tinderbox
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh


Housebreaking Ulster Style
Brian Mór


United Irishmen
Davy Carlin


From A Granny
Kathleen Donnelly


An Enemy of the Republic
Liam O Comain


Some Count, Some Don't
Michael Youlton


If Voting Changed Anything It Would Be Made Illegal!
Sean Matthews


Hackneyed Views of Cuba
Douglas Hamilton


Colombian Trade Unionist in Belfast: Meeting
Sean Smyth




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