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Wooden Spoon

Anthony McIntyre • April 21 2003

Reading Roy Hattersley’s article in the Guardian (14 Apr) it struck me that one reason many British politicians grew prematurely old and grey where they hadn’t pulled their hair out over Ireland, is that their ignorance of the place left them baffled. It is as well for Roy Hattersley that he was once shadow Home Secretary for the British Labour Party rather than the Northern Ireland shadow. A certain detachment from the place allows for mere irritation - as confessed to by Mr Hattersley - as distinct from the neuroses that appears to have afflicted others.

Criticising Irish republicans for having killed Michael Collins is a dubious proposition given that it remains unclear who actually did kill Collins. Perhaps the latter’s bombardment of the Four Courts with British artillery was a more compelling reason for anti-Treaty republicans to militarily oppose him than the mere fact of taking oaths to a British king. But the passage of time does befuddle the mind and one sometimes posits as facts that which the evidence does not conclusively support.

That defence can hardly apply to Roy Hattersley’s other claim that Ruairi Quinn is leader of the Irish Labour Party which he admits to supporting - is he unaware of a particular Pat Rabbitte? And the SDP, which he claims to back in the North, broke with his own party in Britain - it is not an established party in the North.

Roy Hattersley’s notion of historical inevitability taking us towards some predetermined outcome has not been so fashionable in a world where relativist and postmodernist influences have made their impact felt. Where Marx once reigned supreme as the post-Hegelian theorist of teleological thinking his influence has since been diluted and replaced by, amongst other things, Foucauldian and Derridean challenges to the Enlightenment march of irreversible forward momentum - Foucault dismissively having said of Marxism that it ‘exists in nineteenth-century thought as a fish exists in water; that is, it ceases to breathe anywhere else.’

David Trimble speaking at a Belfast book launch towards the end of last year purposefully drew a distinction between the two Karls - Marx and Popper. Siding with the positivism of the latter he seemed in no way bothered by the notion of supposed historical inevitability taking the population of the North towards a united Ireland. Shortly after his speech the results of last year’s census left him even less bothered.

Jim Molyneaux, as pointed out by Mr Hattersley, may have been right to suspect that all John Major's Ireland initiatives were "edged with green". But the green was securely boxed in by the consent principle to Northern Ireland. When the nemesis that long stalked republicanism - the internal solution - gripped the Provisional leadership by the throat in the form of the Good Friday Agreement - the game was up. Republicanism had ignominiously failed. Anything it engaged in after that was green constitutional nationalism coated with a republican froth.

To talk, as Roy Hattersley does, of the enemies of republicanism surrendering sounds like political Esperanto. Even Danny Morrison has claimed that once republicans decommissioned they would have reached their own point of surrender. It is something they have since done twice. Roy Hattersley and Joe Cahill alone seem to believe that the IRA has won the war. Now Cahill is set to support a police force one of whose officers he almost went to the gallows for killing. Hardly what the war was about.

As for the cross border bodies so praised by Roy Hattersley as the harbingers of Irish unity, who seriously believes that these were anything other than what Professor Henry Patterson called the ‘necessary nonsenses’ grafted on to an internal solution merely to facilitate the republican leadership to bluff its way with its own grassroots?

On one level Roy Hattersley is merely putting a smile on the face of the corpse and tarting up republican failure as victory. He is trying to add some ballast to a republicanism inexorably keeling over. But sweeten the pill as he may, behind such discourse there remains a number of bitter realities which do not easily wash down with a pint of rhetoric.

The British state strategy of including republicans but excluding republicanism is proving successful. For all their efforts republicans are as far away from achieving their goals as Roy Hattersley’s team, Sheffield Wednesday, is from winning the Premier League. What has emerged from the Good Friday Agreement is a British declaration of intent to stay, no united Ireland, the primacy of the British and unionist infused consent principle, and a renamed RUC. If republicans won the war why did we ever fight it to begin with given that all these were for the most part available without any such war?

Roy Hattersley admonishes - but in reality praises - republicans, with the backhanded compliment that ‘failing to realise you have won is ridiculous.’ Not nearly as ridiculous as being told the wooden spoon is the coveted silverware.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
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Index: Current Articles

24 April 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Collins Abu!
Tommy Gorman


Who Wants to be Non-Doctrinaire?
Jimmy Sands


Wooden Spoon
Anthony McIntyre


The Restoration of National Soverignty is Not a Right Wing Aspiration
Andy Martin


Shame, Shame, Shame
Aine Fox


Savage "New" Times Government Lie

Karen Lyden Cox


21 April 2003


Easter Message: "A lick of the Oglaigh Stick"
Jimmy Sands


Why do we Commemorate 1916?
Liam O Ruairc


I Don't Get Angry Anymore
Anthony McIntyre


Imperialism It Is
Davy Carlin


Dispose of "Killer Peaceniks" and Distribute Space-Age Prosthetics to the Rest?

Karen Lyden Cox




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