Saturday, November 24, 2007

A bigger Ulsterman

Although I'm a Protestant, I'm delighted to see the Roman Catholic Irish Primate, Dr Seán Brady, elevated to the position of cardinal today. It's a big honour within his church, and it's well deserved.

Dr Brady has said that, no matter what else he achieves, his most important goal is to help people know Jesus better. Now, as a good Prod, how can I argue with that?! He's quite right, and it warms my heart.

I'm sure he and I could crack open a bottle of Tullamore and have a brave evening discussing some differences on the finer points of theology, but I think we'd be doing it as brothers in Christ, and at the end of the day we'd probably both not be 100% on-target on many unfathomable things of God.

Any reader of Romans chapter 4 to 8 will discover that it's not the right theology that gets us our place at the big table, but rather a spirit renewed by a living faith in God. I can see that spirit in Dr Brady, and I find it quite inspiring.

Plus he's an Ulsterman ('nuff said).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Really, Darling!

Two CDs have gone missing while being couriered to London. Oops. Apparently these CDs contained the names, addresses, dates of birth and bank details of child benefit recipients, so naturally there's a public outcry. But get Alistair Darling's advice to Joe and Josephine Public:
1. The details will not be enough to enable fraudsters to access their accounts.
2. People should check their accounts for irregular activity.
Great logic! If fraudsters can't access my account why would any irregular activity be possible? But what Darling's doublespeak is saying, of course, is that fraudsters won't be able to call my bank up and find out my balance.  But he's NOT saying fraudsters can't buy stuff and make me pay. Subtle difference there.
So thank God for people like Alistair Darling. I may have to pick up the tab for a load of consumer electronics from Amazon, but no one but me will ever know I'm two grand in the red.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Stone the crows

I can scarcely believe Gerry Adams' words today. More and more youths are getting their kicks by bombarding the emergency services with rocks, and Adams says it "underscores the need for effective engagement between statutory agencies and local communities".

Bollocks. It underscores the need for parents to start being proper parents who exercise control over what their youngsters get up to. It underscores the need for public figures like Adams to have the balls to tell these people their behaviour is unacceptable. It underscores the need for more discipline including judicious use of community service punishments and, for re-offenders, the birch.

To imply that a fire crew is to blame for this by not stopping to suck up to the hooligans who ignited the bus they're hurrying to put out is just spineless.

Monday, November 12, 2007

We are the Red, White and Blue?

As expected, the UDA used yesterday - Remembrance Day - to say part of its organisation, the so-called Ulster Freedom Fighters (God help us), no longer exists. But the UDA remains intact. And its guns remain intact.

"We are the Red, White and Blue", said Jackie McDonald with an arrogance he should be ashamed of. They represent the UK as much as the IRA represents the Irish nation, i.e. in their minds only.

If the UDA is, as it has claimed, an armed vigilante force to protect Belfast's Protestant working classes against IRA attacks the police was powerless to stop - then its raison d'être has certainly now vanished.

It's ironic that the Irish Republicans among us now seem to respect the law of the land more than people who claim to represent the politcal status quo, but in truth of course the UDA represents nothing but its own suppressive regime of intimidation and drug-dealing in Protestant ghettoes of Belfast and South-East Antrim.

It's time people there stood up to them and told them in no uncertain terms: disarm and disband.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest we forget ...

Interesting article by Kevin Myers in yesterday's Irish Independent (here) in which he berates successive Éire governments for not crushing the IRA, in particular in the wake of the Enniskillen massacre.

I doubt whether that would have been possible, but I'd love to have seen it done - especially if the British government had routed the so-called Protestant terrorists too. And, together, cleansed the RUC and An Garda Síochána of the minority of colluders who tarnished their reputations.

As Soren Kierkegaard observed, life has to be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards. Because we can't alter history let's just be thankful there's peace now. Let's hope the UDA and the rest of them also disarm, and while we're at it let's hear Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness make personal apologies for the IRA's campaign of terror on their fellow Irishmen.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

We will remember them

8th November 1987 - twenty years ago - was Remembrance Sunday in the UK and Ireland, a day for ordinary people to remember ordinary soldiers from all religions and political persuasions who died, inter alia, to stop these islands becoming the outer reaches of the Third Reich.

That day, about 100 people gathered near Paddy McNulty's bike shop in Enniskillen to wait for the wreath-laying, oblivious to the fact that the night before two IRA terrorists had planted a home-made bomb in the building behind them. It exploded and the wall collapsed on them, killing 11 and injuring 63 (the High School headmaster, too, died of his injuries after years in coma). It was an act of mindless terrorism against ordinary Protestant people, nothing more and nothing less, and it shocked the world.

Years later, when my travels took me across Europe, eyes would light up with recognition at the mention of my home town, then dull with sadness and disgust.

With a 10,000 population, everyone knew people among the dead. For me, they included a distant cousin, the man who built my dad's trailer and the daughter-in-law of my granddad's best friend. Not saints, just ordinary Irish folk murdered by their fellow Irishmen for the sake of Ireland. Pointless and pathetic.

Yet good things transpired. With tear-filled eyes the next day, Gordon Wilson told how he had held the hand of his young daughter as she died, and publicly forgave her killers in front of the world's media in the most touching act of Christian forgiveness I've ever seen. Ordinary Catholics, most of whom here have Republican sympathies, were utterly shocked to see the town's Protestant community blown apart in what might be seen as their name. When Gordon, a Methodist, walked into the town's Catholic church to attend a memorial service, the congregation spontaneously stood as a mark of respect and solidarity. And although political differences persist, Catholic tears will also be shed today.

Looking back, the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing was the beginning of the end of the Troubles. Enniskillen could not be seen as part of an "armed struggle". A struggle against ordinary civilians like a nurse, a teacher, an ambulance driver and several housewives was a ridiculous notion and showed the IRA for what it had become - brutal, mindless butchers. Support for terrorism outside the hardline heartlands began to falter, and Sinn Féin's political and electoral efforts were redoubled and, ultimately, rewarded.

Last week saw an ecumenical remembrance service in Dublin at which the Irish Tricolour and the British Union Flag were lowered to the floor side by side to honour the same soldiers honoured every year in Enniskillen. Sinn Féin and the DUP are now governing Northern Ireland in partnership with the UUP and the SDLP. Gerry Adams has apologised for the atrocity in Enniskillen. Cross-border relations are more cordial and cooperative as each day passes, and the days of the IRA are over.

As the great and the good, the pompous and the non-pompous, gather today in a necessary and proper act of remembrance, let us - in the spirit of Gordon Wilson - not bear ill will but be thankful for the brighter days that now persist, remembering the tragic role our loved ones had in the terrible process of bringing us thus far.