Wednesday 19 December 2018

Trots save a Government drowning in deep Water

Illustration by Jim cogan
Illustration by Jim cogan
Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

The Government got lucky when the Trots took over the water charges campaign. The Jobstown mob alienated decent campaigners. Many in the media made too little rather than too much of the bullying of Joan Burton.

To be trapped in a lift for two hours is stressful. To be trapped in a car for two hours by a howling mob is traumatic. Some of my male colleagues are far too sanguine about what Burton endured.

Turning to the Trot takeover, it's important to understand the historical hinterland of that brand of left lunacy. The opposite of Trotskyite is not Stalinist but Leninist. And the problem Trotskyism has with real politics was revealed when Lenin sent Trotsky to Brest Litovsk in 1918 to make peace with Germany.

Lenin wanted to trade land for time so as to save the fragile Bolshevik Revolution. But instead of peace Trotsky came back with the posturing slogan: Neither Peace Nor War. Lenin sent him back to do it properly.

The following list will help you to tell a Trot from other serious socialists: they never know when to stop; they never know when to call off a strike; they get excited by mobs, which they confuse with the working class; they never act with good authority by taking on their own side; they never apologise for bad behaviour, they talk in strangulated tones like Joe Higgins and, above all, they love the word 'massive'.

Had Sinn Fein been in charge, it would have been a different story. As a neo-Leninist party which works on the principle of democratic centralism, its stewards would have ensured Burton's car went on its way.

Mary Lou McDonald would first have cashed a large political cheque with the middle class for acting responsibly. Then cashed a bigger one when the Government backed down. So why did Sinn Fein vacillate?

Sinn Fein's first response was to pay the charge under protest, a position carefully calculated to retain a radical edge while avoiding anarchy on the streets. So why did Mary Lou McDonald suddenly go mad in the Dail and start to chase Paul Murphy and a tantrum of Trots who were bound to blow it?

The short answer is Mairia Cahill. Sinn Fein were so traumatised by her tremendous J'Accuse campaign and her mastery of media, they simply lost their nerve and had the political equivalent of a nervous breakdown.

But if Sinn Fein's Leninist streak is its strength, its nationalist streak is its weakness. The North is its major Achilles Heel. That's why I keep firing arrows at that heel, and will continue to do so as long as it keeps up that primitive pressure for a United Ireland.

Dara Calleary of Fianna Fail has no such fighting spirit. Last Thursday, he went on a Prime Time dealing with petrol-laundering, but never mentioned the well- documented links between fuel-laundering and IRA criminality.

Looking after Sinn Fein No 2's in Mayo is not looking after Fianna Fail nationally. Being soft on Sinn Fein corrodes Micheal Martin's campaign to win back the centre. And that appeasement is what Middle Ireland fears in Fianna Fail.

The prospect of Fianna Fail doing a deal with Sinn Fein does not go down well in Middle Ireland. But the prospect of a weak Fianna Fail doing a deal is a lot worse.

And it's not just Middle Ireland which has a problem with Fianna Fail showing the white flag so far in advance of a General Election.

How can rank and file Fianna Fail supporters trust the front bench of the party to stand up to Sinn Fein in any future coalition when they can't even stand up to Sinn Fein now ?

Time for Micheal Martin to shuffle his shadow front bench. Time to find out who wants fight and who wants flight.

***

The long famine of comment about Ireland and World War I has been followed by a feast which features too many second-rate dishes. Kevin Myers's Ireland's Great War is an astringent antidote, full of absorbing anecdotes. And not all the suffering was physical.

Martin O'Meara VC, from Rathcabbin, Co Tipperary, spent his last 15 years of life chained in a lunatic asylum in Australia. Robert Storey, of the Royal Irish Rifles, on leave in Dublin and about to go back to the front, cut his wife's throat and then his own, in the parlour of his sister-in-law's, in broad daylight, with family members in the next room.

This brings me back to one of the most harrowing themes in Sean A Murphy's book Kilmichael: A Battlefield Study. Far from being the elite of republican folklore, many in the Auxiliary patrol were physically or psychologically damaged by the Great War.

Like the Flying Column, the Auxiliaries were basically civilians in uniform. Only one had been an officer on the outbreak of war. Their pre-war occupations included: grocer's assistant, language teacher, printer, law student, used-car buyer, railway clerk and medical student. They were also far from fit.

Take three surnames at random. Bayley had a nervous debility and been hospitalised twice. Bradshaw had been shot in the chest in August 1916 and gassed in October 1918, Graham had been diagnosed in March with neurasthenia shell shock, and so on and so forth. As Murphy drily says, "a third of the patrol did not meet the required combat physical standards."

Plans to put their names on a plaque at the Kilmichael site ran into resistance. Surely local republicans can see these poor devils deserve to be remembered too? What about a bit of that valuable virtue: Christian forgiveness?

* * *

Tadgh, one of my regular Cork reprimanders, might consider giving me a bit of Christian forgiveness too.

"So you are at it again," he writes to me. "Padraig Pearse was mad as a march hare. As if this was not enough, Tom Barry was a liar. Just how low can you go?"

Tadgh, liar is the least of my charges against Tom Barry. Brave or not, he burned the most beautiful houses in Cork, shot innocent Protestants as spies, and sloped off to Germany in 1938 to do business with the Nazis, who planned to murder 4,000 Irish Jews.

Clearly Tadgh has taken responsibility for re-educating me. "I have written to you previously about your pro-British views."

Indeed you have, Tadgh, and I am sorry to put you to the trouble. But I'm more anti-IRA than pro-British.

But while reprimanding me, Tadgh has little hope of changing me. "Now as the 1916 celebrations are being planned, I expect more poison from you regarding our patriots. If you had your way we would still have John Bull ruling us."

Actually, Tadgh, I'm fairly proud of the Irish Republic. True, there are mornings when the working poor of Cork must wake up wondering whether the Union Jack over City Hall in Cork would be worth it in return for a fairly healthy economy, a free health service and a well- subsidised Irish language service like the Welsh have.

But at least Tadgh laces his strictures with a saving if savage Cork sense of humour and offers a "few suggestions for your next rant." Here's one. "Maybe Tomas Mac Curtain was not shot in his bed by the Brits. Could it have been his wife who murdered him?"

Tadgh, that is not a good example. My grandfather, Pat Harris, was a close friend of Tomas Mac Curtain. He rated him more highly than Terence MacSwiney, whom he felt was a bit too dreamy, and less of a leader than the down-to-earth Mac Curtain.

But unlike the modern IRA, who were deaf to the pleas of their victims, Tadgh has a merciful streak. He finishes with a prayer. "May God forgive you for your treachery."

Thanks for following me, Tadgh, and for taking the trouble to write to me in your fine, flowing longhand.

Sunday Independent

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