History & Histrionics

I was starting work at before six in the morning, working eight hours in a filthy, dusty and hot environment (e.g.: a modern steelworks). I was getting home at gone two in the afternoon and crashing out on the settee through lack of sleep and a lack of clean air into my lungs. What a life! I’m going to come back as a cat. Some people I know will actually come back as the works cat. They spend as much time at work as one! But not me, I need my freedom.

However, my alarm went off at 5.00 am. I had a radio alarm and it was the radio which awoke me. I found myself listening to the news and live reports of an explosion somewhere. There was always an explosion somewhere in the world, so I listened to hear where it was first and then grudgingly I’d lift my aching body towards the bathroom. Apparently the hotel in Brighton housing Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, residing for the Tory Party conference, had been partially demolished. The IRA had claimed responsibility. Adolf Hitler’s survived twenty seven attempts on his life so an attempt to kill Thatcher at least once was inevitable.

Other organisations had tried to get rid of Thatcher; Arthur Scargill by industrial muscle, Michael Foot by clever clichés and cryptic journalistic waffle and by Neil Kinnock with loud words and a big smile. A little pink pussy cat would have fared better than the last two. Unfortunately the British gullibility for a good old war intervened on behalf of Thatcher midway through Kinnock’s bid. The Falkland Islands needed defending and anyway the Armed Forces needed to do some sabre rattling to show Russia that there was still life in this little pile of rocks on the edge of the continental shelf yet.

It needed far more than protest and rhetoric to depose Thatcher. Every attempt to date had been carried out within the constitutional restraints in place at the time. These rules were soon to be modified by the Tories to give them an even greater advantage in future industrial conflict. The Conservative Party mantra and first commandment has always and always will be “If you can’t win fair, cheat like hell“, so they did, they changed the law and the constituency borders to their advantage. Unfortunately this selfish attitude has rubbed off on most of today’s kids. They have adopted this “want it now” attitude which is now indoctrinated indelibly into our culture.

Meanwhile back to the plot. The IRA does not have a democratic or a constitutional line, they were brought into the Republican fold to protect Catholics originally but the Tories were blatantly unresponsive to dialogue regarding the security of a minority group within it’s own country’s borders. The time bomb was primed. In the meantime the British Army, originally sent in to protect the Republicans from Loyalist provocation, violence and forced evictions, were increasingly becoming puppets for the almost exclusively Loyalist RUC. The IRA said they had no choice but to go on the offensive with guns and bombs. It was war.

Although peaceful dialogue can achieve the same end, it takes a lot of flexibility and sacrifice from both sides. Sinn Fein appeared to be making olive branch gestures but Thatcher ignored them totally. She refused to recognise them as a political party and branded all their members as terrorists. She didn’t seem to have any idea about what was happening on the ground, on the estates or in the towns and cities and had an attitude that conveyed a huge “I don’t care” message to one side of Ulster’s split community. Her intelligence has since been seen to be flawed but she continued headlong and ignorant into the abyss. The stories emanating from the media were all heavily biased towards the Tories, Thatcher and the British Army because the Tories had almost total power over the press. The British public sucked it up unquestioningly. As a consequence nobody in the rest of the now dis-united Kingdom ever got to read about the violence towards the Republican minority, nobody knew so nobody cared. It didn’t help that when a story did emerge, it would invariably concern an IRA outrage against innocent civilians.
So, no dialogue. Bullet and bomb over diplomacy it was then!
I well appreciate the bother Ireland had experienced since the beginning of the sixteenth century, what with the Tudors, Cromwell and Raleigh doing their slaughtering and murdering of Irishmen, through the famine years, which Great Britain to their eternal shame ignored, right up to the 1916 rising. In 1916, the British Army were ordering hundreds of thousands of their best young men to die in the mud of Flanders, so the Easter Rising was perfect timing, opportunist and a long overdue moment in Irish history.

You would think that people, who live in the same town, eat the same food, drink the same water or whiskey and even speak the same language, would have some common ground between them. This is not so. It is easy to understand wanting to rid your own country of occupying forces, that’s dead obvious, so the 1916 armed rising was inevitable and is the right of every nationalist the world over. But that was then and this is now, so what is it which pits the people in Ulster against one another? What is it, which makes one Irishman hate another Irishman? Believe it or not (no pun intended) it is religion. Yes, a belief! That is all it is! That is all that stops them from being friends. It is so ridiculous that such a small thing can give a man a reason to murder his next door neighbour. The kids don’t want it, the old people don’t want it but there are bigots on both sides of the religious divide who see the perpetuation of sectarianism as necessary. They really want to grow up.

When either my Father or my Grandad was bobbing me up and down on his knee when I was a three year old, I can’t remember them telling me not to play with Mick O’’Toole from up the road because he went to the wrong church. I do remember we went to different schools, but we played football after school together and climbed trees together, and when we got older we went to the same colleges and universities. You see, they don’t have a separate campus, one for Catholics and one for Protestants in the real world.

However, the bigots in this tiny bit of the world put it down to tradition. If its tradition you want then how about this for tradition: the Romans used to chop the heads off Christians and mount them on poles on the roads to Rome warning them what could happen if they didn’t tow the line! Fortunately this quaint little tradition has been discontinued and Italy has grown up and become a civilised country, with the exception of the Mafia and a few of AC Milan’s defenders.

A postscript to these rantings is that we are still playing out a recurring historical drama. In effect we are living in the past. Henry II of France, Mary Queen of Scots, Henry VIII of England, his sister Mary, (later to become Queen), King Philip II of Spain, Queen Elizabeth I of England, Pope Gregory XIII and a host of others who have all been dead for 400 years or more, have all in one way or another dropped us in this mess. Four hundred bloody years.

The Americans made “romantic” films about them all at one time or another. It would be quite reasonable to blame 20th Century Fox and Metro Goldwyn Meyer for a lot of the trouble. They seem to be have glorified every wicked plot there was! If they make a film about something, then that something is invariably a violent bloody history. Now it is all guns, drugs and fictional military heroes.
The latest film to be factually incorrect is the one about Michael Collins where an armoured car machine-gunned down Gaelic football spectators outside the ground. The shootings were infact inside, 14 people died in the ground shot by the infamous Black & Tans, (of whom some of it’s soldiers were Irish) and the Royal Irish Constabulary. Two people were trampled to death in the ensuing panic as people surged to exit the stadium, but there were more deaths in Dublin that day in 1920 as Michael Collins and an IRA team killed 13 British agents in an effort to destroy the British intelligence network in the city of Dublin. This was the first so called Bloody Sunday.

The full truths about these events didn’t emerge until the year 2000. Why do the British do this? I know they have a lot to hide but with very few exceptions, every single one of the players in this particular theatre of death is in fact dead. This is the country that roundly condemned the Nazis shooting of prisoners and demanded almost instant retribution via the Nuremburg trial. When the boot is on the other foot, Britain doesn’t even want to know. Britain has been at the forefront of the subjugation and massacre of millions of people in the countries they invaded and declared part of the British Empire. Britain has a lot of sordid secrets to hide and it is still hiding them.
Apparently there was a plan in recent times, when Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, to mobilise the British Army and if necessary shoot striking miners, but that’s another story. Someone should be shot for keeping stuff like this a secret.
British people no longer feel the need to be proud to be British. It’s embarrassing.

Talking about what a toilet England has become over the last three decades, isn’t going to help anything either, there are far more cheerful things. Lets move on.