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Dublin Report Ireland an island of discontent as summer arrives

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By John Kelly

Suddenly, yet again, Ireland is an unsettled island. Boring, it is not.

South of the border, there’s the Tipperary bye-election. There’s also enough sleaze nationally, to make one groan.

The tribunals regularly continue to rake up deeply dug manure. You begin to wonder just who, or what, is in charge of "Ireland Inc."

Then, there’s Northern Ireland. There, a bunch of Catholic kids have to run a sectarian gauntlet just to get to school. This is not Boston-style school busing. These kids are not backed up by the something like the National Guard in the U.S. There is no national guard in Northern Ireland.

Instead, there is the RUC and the British Army. We know how the minority feels about both. A force that is not acceptable to most of their parents and is not welcome in their environs protects the children. The IRA has ostensibly left the scene.

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This time, it seems certain that David Trimble will have resigned by the time you read these words. He has threatened to resign too often. So let him be done with it.

His wife, I am sure, is quite fed up with all of the dreary nonsense that emanates from the gray, forbidding steeples of Northern Ireland.

Who needs it, when you can live in Cyprus? And the Trimbles definitely like Cyprus.

The question, then, is who will then take up the leadership? For that matter, is there anybody who really, really wishes to don the mantle.

Jeffrey Donaldson is so devious that he may manage to avoid it. The most likely possibility is that the party will wallow without a captain throughout the summer. Even though the old Northern rule still applies, that violence will not break out when most expected, the early indications are that this summer promises to be one of the hottest for a long time.

So far, the IRA has kept its powder dry. The guns and the Semtex are still safely stowed away. There is nothing to suggest they will be taken out of the hidden dumps.

Even if the IRA is forced to take any action in defense of beleaguered, isolated nationalists, the likelihood is that it will do so in a more passive than aggressive way.

The implications of a leaderless unionist party and the resignation of the first minister for the Good Friday agreement are enormous.

It may collapse. In the long term, under all of the various agreements that have been made between London and Dublin, the only alternative will be direct rule by both governments.

Foolishly, even moderate unionists don’t seem to care. They continue to adopt a negative approach. No surrender is still the key expression. Too many, no matter how it may seem superficially, regard the agreement as a sellout.

Look at the misbegotten leaders of the Ulster Unionist Party. Examine closely their credentials. And remember that the party is only an appendage of the Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The real difference between it, as a party, and the Rev. Ian Paisley’s reactionary Democratic Unionist Party, is that one is allegedly respectable and the other a bunch of bowsies.

There is no real evidence to suggest that the unionism of David Trimble is any different to the same brand, preached ad nauseam, but with great profit, by Paisley.

They are just two different sides to the royal currency. The shilling can fall on either side. They are royalists, loyal to the crown, determined to ensure that no "Taig" will ever occupy the throne of Westminster.

They are yesterday’s men.

Trimble, it seems, has the wit to see it. Alas, Paisley will be pickled in his own unique vinegar vat.

Paisley is an oddity. He hates deeply and, most of all, he hates the Roman Catholic papacy. He has declared this so many times as to make himself and his perverted church even more money. He is a rich man, and a cynical man. It is time his like was gone.

By the same token, it is difficult to weep any tears at the political wake of Trimble. He represents a different note of Unionism than Paisley. They still dance to the same tune. And the tune is Orangeism.

The drums will beat again around Drumcree. People — just people, Protestant or Catholic — may die as the result. It is time the whole deadly, nonsensical chorus is stopped and stopped for good.

Who can stop it?

The clergy, most of all, on both parts of the sectarian border, have the biggest hand to play.

Let’s just imagine that the bishops, the Cardinals, the upper and lower hierarchy of all religions, could host a joint service at Drumcree before the annual summer showdown.

Surely, such a dignified, historically significant turnout, would give the lie to the bullet and the bomb, the prejudice and the hate?

Will they do it? Of course not.

They will never want to admit that religion can be sometimes an affliction.

And South of the Border?

The taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, is trying to win a bye-election in South Tipperary. He will be surprised only if he does. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction in the island of Ireland as we shelter from yet another summer.

In a most peculiar, almost subconscious sense, Ahern is likely to pay for the fallout.

Fine Gael will not gain. Fine Gael rarely does. What Fine Gael regards as a gain is a Fianna Fail loss. It is the immutable law of Irish political life.

It also says quite a lot about the party. It never seems to have developed a philosophy, while Fianna Fail has rarely adopted any in its persistently pragmatic, populist approach.

However, Ahern and Fianna Fail will suffer. The general mood is one of dissatisfaction.

North and south, the system does not seem to work for the welfare and the happiness of all. On both sides of the border Murphy’s Law holds sway.

With peace almost within reach north of the border, the Northern majority seems intent on toppling headlong back into the abyss.

With unprecedented wealth south of the border, we seem to be incapable of using it for the betterment of all. While the rich get richer, the sick and the aged cannot obtain proper health care.

The general discontent was strongly reflected in the Nice vote.

For Fianna Fail, there will be worse to come.

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