Thursday 19 January 2017

Ghosts of past reveal empty rhetoric and the capacity for old hatreds

John-Paul McCarthy considers Martin McGuinness's claims to world-historical respect as a statesman

Published 25/09/2011 | 05:00

One of the reasons modern Irish history has such a narrow purchase in international debates is its stubborn circularity.

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Sean O Faolain let out a long, erudite moan in his Princeton lectures on the "Vanishing Hero" in the Fifties when considering the way Irish intellectual life was stranded between "the recurrent denial, the recurrent flight, and the smashing of the chandelier to the old strangled cry of, 'With me all or not at all'." He never met Martin McGuinness, but he certainly saw him coming.

Consider the predictability of McGuinness's main argument: any nationalist who has grasped the paw of Paisley must be welcomed with open arms in any other national office. This argument asks us to take our presidential standards from the Big Man, and allow the harlequin pastor a kind of moral veto over the Republic's elections.

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