The Blanket

Pretty Vacant


Mick ‘Skull Cap’ Murphy, the Sinn Fein MLA in South Down, has been deselected as a candidate to fight next year's Stormont assembly election. In his place a ‘friend’ and altogether more ‘respectable’ character has been selected to fight Mick’s seat. When he is collecting Mick’s pay-packet, spending Mick’s money, going to Mick’s functions and making Mick’s TV appearances how much of a ‘friend’ of Mick’s he will actually remain is a moot point. A college lecturer, the new South Down assembly candidate, who unlike Mick did not graduate from the ‘University of Long Kesh', has already demonstrated his ‘electability’ by occupying a council seat confirming that the professionalisation of Sinn Fein is well underway. The skull cap just does not fit the party head anymore it would seem. And the latest tabloid rumour is that John Kelly too may face a de-selection process.

Despite the sense of expectation when Bentham designed the panopticon that it would see everything (wouldn’t the thought police just love that!) it never quite worked out that way. This panopticon sees things only in a certain rather than a complete way. Unlike some in the world of politics no claim is made to penetrate the thick political fog and extend panoptical vision into the future to 2016 or anything so grandiose. Nevertheless, trends are nothing if they tend not to go in a general direction. And if the present trend is to be followed and electability is to figure more than prison durability then who knows what lies ahead in an interface area like North Belfast where Sinn Fein feel that if they can diminish the presence of the SDLP sufficiently the seat is theirs?

The party would dearly love to represent the constituency at Westminster but according to some on the inside track is unlikely to do so under present circumstances and with its current candidate who like Mick Murphy has the type of ‘form’ the Castle Catholics of the Upper Antrim Road might sneer at. And despite the claims of some Sinn Fein members that the present candidate wants the seat so badly it hurts, burning personal ambition does not always transmute into blazing political ability.

Who today remembers Words From A Cell? As widely read now as 1990 horse racing guides the present republican candidate’s poetry can not really mount any effective challenge to North Belfast’s literary man of the moment, still basking in the lavish praise from Sinn Fein quarters for his recently published novel on the party. And like the infernal pop up ad from the internet comes the reality check that all of Mick Murphy’s time spent in cells did him little good when words from outside a cell were needed.

So what if the leadership decides that the transition to an advanced stage of another new phase of struggle which has emerged from the progress made in the last new phase of struggle towards the first juncture in the second endgame, requires a candidate more articulate, better looking and younger than the present incumbent might it not opt, as is rumoured, to shunt Gerry Kelly off into the RUC (perhaps his usage of the term ‘PSNI’ last Monday on UTV was to help soften the landing for those still swearing it will never happen; as was his agreeing to be photographed alongside a future colleague from the force at Ardoyne while asking that the same future colleague move the dogs back) and replace him as the North Belfast candidate with Brian Feeney? And if he resisted - what a battle of the great pretenders that selection process would be. With the smoke signals on the ground urging people to ‘sicken the Prods - vote out Dodds’ , a Feeney victory would mean that the unionists really would have something to worry about.

So what if we can’t give Gerry Kelly our vote? Console ourselves with being able to give him our name, address and date of birth - or ‘over 21’ if applicable.






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At least one way of measuring the freedom of any society is the amount of comedy that is permitted, and clearly a healthy society permits more satirical comment than a repressive, so that if comedy is to function in some way as a safety release then it must obviously deal with these taboo areas. This is part of the responsibility we accord our licensed jesters, that nothing be excused the searching light of comedy. If anything can survive the probe of humour it is clearly of value, and conversely all groups who claim immunity from laughter are claiming special privileges which should not be granted.
- Eric Idle


14 July 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Case for Class Politics

Billy Mitchell


Tim Lopes - Poor, Black, Journalist

Anthony McIntyre


Pretty Vacant



11 July 2002


In Memory of a Storm Trooper

Billy Mitchell


States of Failure

Ciarán Irvine


Colombian 3 - What Chance of Justice
Sean Smyth

So Many Monuments...

Brian Mór

Lord Alex on the job
Brian Mór




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The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
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