Declan Lynch: 'In Ireland's hour of need, Sinn Fein abstains'
I wouldn't keep mentioning this, but since it hasn't exactly been making the front pages, I'm returning to this extremely strange matter of the Sinn Fein abstentionist policy.
Most days of the week now, several times a day, indeed, it seems there's another vote in the House of Commons with a very small majority, or even no majority at all. One or two votes can make a tremendous difference these days, three or four votes can change the world - but the number of votes we have in mind in particular here is seven.
There is almost nothing that can't be decided at Westminster these days by seven votes, which is the number of seats that Sinn Fein has, or would have were it not for its abstentionist policy. They do not abstain from standing in elections for Westminster, nor do they abstain from taking millions over the years in "expenses", but they do not take their seats because of the "principled stance" that they refuse to pledge allegiance to a foreign power, or to swear an oath to the queen, basically all that IRA stuff.
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But then we know that this is IRA stuff, and we know that Sinn Fein is representing that most extreme form of nationalism, what is less known is how the hell they are getting away with it, to the extent that they are.
At this time of the utmost gravity, how is there not a moment in almost every broadcast, in every edition of every newspaper, when they are challenged as any other party would be, on the essential delinquency of their position? How is it not considered a monumental scandal that during these epoch-defining days, when their beloved Ireland needed them, they abstained?
But this is stranger still, than mere negligence on the part of some in the Irish media. Indeed, much of the most articulate reasoning in defence of the Sinn Fein position has come from journalists taking it upon themselves to explain these matters to those who may not comprehend the true complexities of politics and of life in general. So they went first with the line that everybody who voted for Sinn Fein knew they were abstentionist, they have a mandate for it. And if it is suggested that the party might go against that mandate in these exceptional circumstances, to save old Ireland, well… they just repeat the line. And as for the unanswerable response that Trump had a mandate for his Wall, but that still doesn't make it right… they don't go there. But it gets better, because the next phase of the Sinn Fein "strategy" on this difficult issue was to argue that even if they were to put aside the IRA's principles, as they did indeed in order to take their seats in the Dail, it wouldn't make any difference anyway. The numbers would always be against them.
Well now, that was wrong, wasn't it? I mean, that was really very wrong. And it's all right to be wrong, in such a volatile situation, as long as you come out and acknowledge that you were wrong, and that maybe you want to put it right. Or if you don't come out and say that, hopefully everyone you encounter who has a microphone pointed at you will remind you of it and you can take it from there.
Yet I am not aware of any great movement in this direction, of Mary Lou McDonald being tormented with a question that goes something like this: "Mary Lou, you know all that stuff about it making no difference anyway if Sinn Fein took their seats against their sacred principles, due to the numbers not adding up? That turned out to be all wrong, didn't it? I mean, that was about as wrong as anything can be, was it not?"
I'm not hearing a lot of that, but here is the best bit of all. Despite the determination of many individuals to cling to their wrongness and to move on from this mere distraction, there is some public awareness at least that Sinn Fein could be lording it on Ireland's behalf in the Commons - ah, but now you will hear the line that even if Sinn Fein could make that crucial difference on paper, it is simplistic to say that that would actually happen, if Sinn Fein took its seats.
Because… and this is the punchline, this is the payoff… because the other parties somehow would never allow that to happen. They would see Sinn Fein coming, as it were, and they would see them off, cleverly arranging to take whatever measures were needed. That's right, the collective genius of Westminster which has been astonishing us all since 2016, would find a way to outfox them. It's a good one, and there's nothing I can add to that, except to say that in the throes of this orgy of wrong-headedness, there is a deeper truth being revealed. When Sinn Fein say that they have "no business" at Westminster, in one way they are right - they are not in the business of helping Ireland, as such, at least not the Ireland that most of us recognise but that the IRA never did. For them, like all the other hardcore nationalists in this morass, not only would no deal be better than a bad deal, it would be better than a good deal.
‘Commander in Cheat’ Trump has dishonesty down to a tee
Now we're hearing from some of Robert Mueller's investigators that the 'Mueller Report' is more damaging to Trump than the Attorney-General William Barr's summary of its conclusions claimed.
I know that in terms of amazing revelations, this one wouldn't exactly make it into Ripley's Believe It Or Not, but still you wonder how the Mueller team imagined it could be any different. Even though they took the trouble to include their own short summaries of the various sections in a form that was ready to be published, they might have surmised that the Trump-appointed Barr would make his own arrangements.
So they believe that a false narrative has been put out there, which would make sense in the case of a man whose entire existence is driven by false narratives, to such an extent that last week he maintained that his own father, Fred Christ Trump, was born in Germany, which he was not.
Mueller must wait, but in the run-up to the Masters next week, we have the devastating indictments of Commander In Cheat, a book by Rick Reilly about Trump's tremendous dishonesty on the golf course.
Caddies called him "Pele" for his habit of kicking his ball from the rough to the fairway. And once when an opponent hit a superb shot in the direction of the green, only to find his ball mysteriously in the greenside bunker, it was later disclosed by the caddy that the ball had indeed landed about 10ft from the hole, but "Pele" had simply thrown it into the sand-trap when his opponent wasn't looking.
That's what he'd do, just to win a game of golf.
Imagine then what he would do if a large document containing damaging information about him colluding with Russians were to arrive anywhere in his general vicinity?
The smart money is saying that Mueller landed near the hole, and still the caddy is handing him a sand-wedge.
Lyric FM will soon be 20 years old, and I would hope that it will see 30 at least, before that whole concept of public service broadcasting fades away, to be replaced naturally by something much worse.
I have made it an article of faith in these pages, that anything that is any good in this world is in constant danger, and so I was troubled but not greatly surprised when presenter Eamonn Lenihan and then Carl Corcoran were no longer doing the legendary The Blue of the Night for no good reason that I could fathom - and the programme itself was inexplicably and very poorly called The Purple Vespertine at weekends. It made me nervous, that, because the parts of this "classical music" station which I like the best are the ones that are not strictly "classical". I'm talking about Marty Whelan's finely-judged selections in the morning, or John Kelly's peerless "Mystery Train", or "Blue…" itself.
And then I see something that makes me even more nervous, this recent report that BBC3 has decided to cut the amount of time it devotes to music outside the classical canon. There has always been a commendable openness in this country to ideas from Britain, but here is more proof that British ideas in general are going through something of a valley period of late.
Yet we can be optimistic about Lyric too, in the fact that a current presenter of "Blue…", Bernard Clarke, does a strong line in the rock of the early 1970s, thinking nothing of playing a whole side of a Led Zeppelin album uninterrupted.
Now I know that rock can never be allowed to return, mainly because it involved freakishly talented men, some of them wearing leopardskin trousers, showing off their astounding array of skills and generally indulging in decadent celebrations of the male ego - and in 2019 and for the foreseeable future, that sort of thing is effectively illegal.
But we can sigh for dear old England too, that it used to send out to the world men such as Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zep, monstrously gifted rulers of the universe, omnipotent gods of the earth - in my favourite picture of Led Zep, they are on board their private jet touring America, relaxing in front of a fireplace that they had installed on the plane, just because, I guess, they wanted to have a fireplace on it.
It used to be the likes of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page out there doing it for England, now it's Michael Gove. It will take more than 20 years to put that right.