Monday 26 September 2016

Let's give a fair wind to this new Government

Published 08/05/2016 | 02:30

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan

Let's not be toxic like the Labour Party. Let's give a fair wind to the new Government and Dail.

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To make the new system work, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail will have to give up professional tennis and play beach tennis.

Professional tennis, with savage serves delivered overhand, is all about competition.

Beach tennis, played by the sea, with a court marked faintly on the sand, is all about co-operation.

Players of the beach game cannot serve the ball overhand at bullet speed.

It they do, they will spend the day chasing it down the beach or into the waves.

So they serve the ball underhand with low lobs. The object is not to win, but to keep the ball in play.

The new Framework Agreement sets out the basic rules for keeping the political ball in play between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

But there is nothing in the document to prevent robust debates on policy.

Furthermore, there is always the possibility of a foul, a sudden, savage overhand in breach of the spirit of the agreement.

If Fine Gael commits that kind of major foul, Fianna Fail will be free to pull the plug, framework or not.

But if it does so without dire reasons, it will be punished at the polls by a public backlash.

That means the Pied Piper Pundits are again wrong in stressing that a Fine Gael government is at the mercy of Fianna Fail.

That's because Fine Gael politicians know Fianna Fail's breaking points. And will try to avoid them.

Naturally, a gang of Fianna Fail Trots could cause the collapse of the Government by disobeying the party whip.

Likewise, a group of Fine Gael Trots might decide to take no more verbals from Fianna Fail.

But neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fail should tolerate any selfish Trotty factions seeking to fracture the Framework Agreement.

Both parties need at least three years to expose the empty slogans and stances of Trot and Independent messers in Dail Eireann.

Fianna Fail needs to finish stealing Trot clothes - not that Mick Wallace's wardrobe is worth much.

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have a common interest in turning down the volume on the booming voice of Gerry Adams.

They should start by pointing out that we do not share his obsession with keeping the pot boiling in Northern Ireland.

Last week, we formed a government in the Republic and they held elections in Northern Ireland.

The distinction between "we" and "they" is deliberate on my part.

People in the Republic have as little interest in Northern Ireland politics as they have in Northern Ireland's football team.

The reverse is also true. And thereby hangs a huge tale of hypocrisy.

The Republic is profoundly partitionist in practice. All we really want in Northern Ireland is peace.

So why don't we reject Gerry Adams's project for a united Ireland which continues to corrode our relations with unionists?

Likewise, why don't we reject Sinn Fein setting the agenda on the Republic's relations with the State of Israel?

The N-word tweets gave us a glimpse into the weird workings of Adams's mind. Let me start by being fair about what they meant.

Gerry Adams is not a racist. He's a political bigot. And he's not alone.

In spite of the push for pluralism, we still share two bigotries with Sinn Fein.

First, in spite of the peace process, we are still politically bigoted about Northern Protestants.

Second, we are also bigoted about the right of Jews to defend their safe house after the Holocaust.

Let me take these two bigotries in turn, starting with the delusion that northern nationalists are the most oppressed people ever.

On April Fool's day 1943, as millions of Jews were being butchered in Europe, De Valera's Irish Press proclaimed with perfect seriousness: "There is no kind of oppression visited on any minority in Europe which the six-county nationalists have not also endured."

That kind of mindless myopia was normal in a southern political culture that had been in retreat from reality since 1921.

Spurred on by Sinn Fein, nationalists categorised unionist objection to a united Ireland as blindly racist when it was really rational and political.

As recently as 2008, Gerry Adams told a fundraiser in New York: "Human beings of my acquaintance are as petty and mean-spirited as those in the Afrikaner wing of unionism."

Adams had plenty of mainstream supporters. Tim Pat Coogan told us that "philosophically, unionism is based on supremacy, on fear and distrust of the natives".

Actually unionism was built on fear of Roman Catholic supremacy and distrust of the IRA.

The second bigotry is our bitter treatment of the State of Israel. Shamefully, we were the last in the EU to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East.

Let me categorically predict that our bigotry against Israel will end badly when some anti-semitic atrocity shames Europe.

Spare me the cop-out that you are only anti-Zionist. Because Zionism simply means the historical project of a Jewish state.

Let me predict that just as anti-partitionism ended up as an apologia for Provo atrocities so our anti-Zionism will eventually end up as anti-semitism.

Sinn Fein is pushing us down that dark road. In 2006, Aengus O Snodaigh, described Israel as "one of the most abhorrent and despicable regimes on the planet".

What planet does O Snodaigh live on? Certainly not one that contains North Korea and Assad's Syria.

Sinn Fein is the common factor between our twin bigotries of anti-unionism and anti-Zionism.

John McTernan, writing in the respected English magazine Prospect, asked a rhetorical question.

"What connects support for the Provisional IRA, nostalgia for the Soviet Union, an indulgence for the Russian Federation and a willingness to support Hamas and Hezbollah?"

He answers: "The infantile politics of the ultra-left, where foreign policy positions derive from the tortured application of the logic of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend'."

Darragh McManus, of the Irish Independent, baffled by the blanket coverage when Israel retaliates against rocket attacks, wrote as follows: "There is no logical reason, no journalistic purpose, in Gaza receiving saturation exposure, year after year, whereas Sudan or Somalia or Yemen or Nigeria or anywhere else are basically ignored, except for sporadic reports."

In the film The Fly, a scientist shares his teleportation device with a housefly. He comes out a hybrid monster.

Share any political project with Sinn Fein, be it anti-unionism or anti-Zionism, and I predict you will rue the day.

Finally, Adams should note that while the republican John Mitchell supported slavery, the constitutional Daniel O'Connell fought it ferociously.

You can now follow O'Connell's cinematic life in Jody Marshall's powerfully illustrated, Daniel O'Connell, A Graphic Life, published by Collins Press.

Sunday Independent

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