Wednesday 24 April 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'Brexit shows Westminster is now history'


'I always saw Westminster's fuss, ceremony and rituals as part of respect due to the mother of parliaments.' Photo: PA
'I always saw Westminster's fuss, ceremony and rituals as part of respect due to the mother of parliaments.' Photo: PA
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

It was one of those disappointments that stuck with me. Just a football match that turned sour like so many others, but one I can instantly recall.

The great World Cup of 1970 in Mexico was the first one I truly engaged with as a fan. It is best remembered as the Pele tournament, of course, and there has been none to touch it since. But it wasn't a game involving the magnificent Brazil that is locked into my memory, but a pulsating quarter-final between the defending champions England and West Germany.

Played in scorching Guadalajara, the Germans stole the game in extra time. England were my team back then, and I was gutted. It's probably safe to say true Gaels everywhere were shouting at their black-and-white televisions willing the auld enemy to lose, but I hadn't been brought up like that.

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That connection with the England team dimmed over the years, not for any conscious adjustment on my part; rather because the Three Lions became increasingly hard to like.

But I never stopped being an Anglophile. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in what seemed like a very claustrophobic and insular Ireland, it was the island across that narrow pond that offered me cultural sustenance and choices. Not just the footie, of course. But The Beatles, Bowie, the BBC, James Bond, Anthony Burgess. And that's just the 'B's.

The devotion wasn't absolute, though. The Troubles helped shift perceptions, while everything Margaret Thatcher did brought me out in a rash.

But that stuff offended decent Britons, too, and more tolerant values were never far from the surface.

Still, nothing prepared me for Brexit. Not so much the fact that a slim majority of voters chose to answer a ludicrously simplistic question the way they did. Or even that they had been lied to about how wonderful it would be. But specifically, the omnishambles that is the House of Commons.

I always saw Westminster's fuss, ceremony and rituals as part of respect due to the mother of parliaments. But Brexit has exposed it as a sham - a pantomime of the grotesque where windbags and charlatans hold court like 17th-century fops.

Many are the arrogant products of public school and Oxbridge privilege, shamelessly putting party before country but, mostly, putting themselves before microphones.

History matters, but the best thing to do with Westminster would be to turn it into a museum, with stuffed and mounted Tory grandees on display for American and Japanese tourists to selfie. The new parliament should be moved somewhere down-river to a state-of-the-art concrete and steel brutalist building devoid of cobwebs, hubris and that rancid perfume of glorious empire. A place where Britain would be forced to face its future, rather than endlessly indulge its past.

Dev's great plan to make unionists feel welcome

It is amazing what you find in archives when you go rummaging about.

On a vain hunt for something else entirely, I happened upon a speech delivered by Éamon de Valera at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis in December 1939. On the thorny issue of partition, he proposed that the unionist population be "transferred" to Britain in exchange for Irish emigrants travelling the other way.

Perhaps Dev thought he had stumbled upon a cunning plan to solve two existentialist crises at once.

The reaction of the party faithful to this proposed ethnic declutter? Rapturous, it seems. Then we wonder why unionists have never trusted us.

Perhaps when you consider the sort of crass banners Mary Lou McDonald paraded behind, while wooing Sinn Féin's begorrah constituency in the States last week, they still shouldn't.

Irish Independent

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