Wednesday 26 October 2016

Eoghan Harris: From pleasures of Paris to Provo propaganda

Published 08/05/2011 | 05:00

To Paris, for the Mayday march. Somehow my spouse thinks we're here for a weekend break with the Travel Department. But, as I point out over lunch in a left-bank restaurant across from Notre Dame (not a patch on St Peter and Paul's Cork) we veterans of the '68 Paris riots become more vibrant on Mayday.

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Back in '68, I boast, as Gwen signals to the waiter to bring the crème brulee, I spent my days dodging the leaded capes of the CRS, and my nights meeting cynical Communist Party workers from the Renault plant who dismissed the riots as just another form of student foreplay. The Renault workers were right.

After the crème brulee I lapse into a sugar coma. When I wake, Gwen -- who had been watching the television in the bar -- gives me the grim news that the numbers of socialist marchers are down while the numbers of National Front marchers are up. I console myself with another cognac. That left-bank café is as far left as I get on Mayday.


To the Marais area, the magical old Jewish district. While some world-weary guides deplore its alleged descent into boutiques, gay bars and tourist traps, that's just on weekends. In spite of the evil efforts of Vichy France, French Jews are back in the Marais.

Today, crocodiles of Jewish kids wind their way to school past cafes where happy gay couples hold hands. Above them, their parents lean down from balconies and talk loudly to their street listeners about some new philosophical theory that will shortly amaze the world -- as well as giving out about gefilte fish.

Always happy to be among Parisian Jews -- even listening to them makes my brain bigger -- I settle down with my iPhone at a café corner in the Rue de Rosiers while Gwen, who thinks Paris needs a few Oxfam shops, tries vainly to convince the cynical proprietor of a nearby vintage clothing boutique that the Chanel bag in the window priced at €1,000 is actually a fake worth €15.

My Irish Times app reports Pat Rabbitte telling Deaglan de Breadun that it's Croke Park or pay cuts. Let's hope the public sector take him seriously. I believe a head of steam is slowly building in the private sector, analogous to the PAYE agitation of the late 1970s, that will be ready to let rip at the next General Election.


To the Gaiety -- after a nice flight home thanks to Aer Lingus -- to see the The Big Fellah, Richard Bean's play about Irish-American IRA activists from 1972-2011. But some of Bean's programme notes on Belfast do not inspire confidence.

"The old IRA, or the Stickies as they were known to the Provisionals, had proved themselves to be incapable of defending the Catholic communities in the North from attack by their Protestant neighbours." But the whole point of being a Stickie was to avoid any such sectarian agenda.

The politics of the play sometimes baffled me. Why does David Costello, the Big Fellah, first develop a conscience about all the murders committed in the armed struggle and then finish as a supporter of the Real IRA? But a final brilliant plot twist explains all. And there are three reasons to endorse Emer O'Kelly's view that the Big Fellah is an "extraordinarily gripping piece of theatre".

First, the play does grip, thanks to a proper plot and careful construction in the Terence Rattigan style. Second, it moves fast and furiously, alternating black comedy with black horror. Above all, it accurately depicts the surreal mental world of New York's public sector Provos -- public sector because the bedrock of IRA support was among cops and firemen -- whose lethal sentimentality and ignorance of Irish politics helped the IRA to keep killing.

After 9/11, many of them redeemed their armchair heroics in relation to two states about which they really knew nothing -- Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic -- with their actual heroism on behalf of the only states they could authentically call their own -- the United States of America. The Big Fellah is in the Everyman Palace, Cork, next week and not to be missed.


To the anger room, after listening to Danny Morrison making Provo propaganda on the Pat Kenny Show. Neither Kenny nor the other panelist, Eamon Maille, challenge Morrison's brazen boast that H Blocks had brought the Brits and Prods to heel.

Kenny also keeps mute when Morrison monstrously refers to the 29 prison officers murdered by the Provo IRA, as having "lost their lives" in the "context" of 1981. Admittedly, Kenny did not sound too comfortable. Possibly he perceived that the panel could have done with more balance. Noel Curran is editor-in-chief of RTE. He should spend less time "rolling out" digital initiatives and more time rolling back the lurid fantasies of lumpen proletarian listeners who threaten the peace process. Like the Celtic supporters who took part in the Love Ulster riots and whose HuddleBoard website has a thread fetchingly titled "Gibson Hotel in Dublin -- Queen loving traitor c**ts" (this being their all-purpose term of abuse).

BobbySands8 says: "They have the biggest banner you'll ever see with the face of the Queen of England hanging from the front of their hotel, f**kin traitor scumbags." To which Darren67 replies: "The Fitzwilliam Hotel had a party for that wedding last week as well, west brit c**ts." And so on and on.

These degraded diatribes are the work of young men who live a few miles from Montrose. Surely the national broadcaster has a duty of care to protect these deluded souls from one-sided exposure to former Provo propagandists like Danny Morrison?


Garret FitzGerald is poorly. In good health he always acted with good authority. Pat Kenny & Co might note the heading on the Irish Times report of his lecture to the McCluskey Civil Rights Summer School in 2009. "FitzGerald in favour of internment and broadcasting bans against extremists in certain circumstances".

FitzGerald rightly believed that if the Provos had absolute access to the airwaves during H Blocks, hundreds of young fools might have joined the IRA. It was Section 31's long freeze which finally forced Sinn Fein to come in from the cold. Like me, FitzGerald has no regrets about not giving free speech to fascists.


In sharp contrast to the Pat Kenny Show's lazy lack of balance, Prime Time's coverage of the Northern assembly elections was a model of public service broadcasting. Miriam O' Callaghan showed an admirable command of local detail, and -- given the lack of results -- considerable cool.

She filled the time gaps smoothly with the help of the tireless Tommie Gorman and a well-picked studio panel -- Professor Henry Patterson, Caoimhin O Caolain, Stephen King and the SDLP's Brid Rodgers, looking as pretty as she did 40 years ago when she was a regular on my Feach programme.

In case that sounded sexist, let me cover my ass from all angles by saying my old friend Stephen King looked great too.

Sunday Independent

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