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Inside File: Nobel a dull moment

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

David Trimble might now be seen by some now as a unionist prophet, but that view owes nothing to his utterings of five years ago. When it was first revealed that John Hume had been holding secret talks with Gerry Adams, Trimble told a gathering of unionists that Hume’s strategy was “misconceived and bound to fail.”

Hume, meanwhile, flew to Brussels early last week to receive the Sean MacBride Peace Prize. A whiff of irony here, given that Hume has long opposed implementation, if not the spirit, of the MacBride Principles in Northern Ireland. But life is never simple. MacBride himself managed to be chief of staff of the IRA, an Irish government minister and both a Nobel laureate and winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in the course of his many years.

Those twin blades of the Sunday Independent, Ruth Dudley Edwards and Conor Cruise O’Brien, were not exactly roaring with delight over the Hume-Trimble Nobels. Edwards was happy enough with Trimble getting a share but wanted to see Seamus Mallon win out over Hume. Her reason for this is that she blames Hume for a situation in which “murderers are backing the [Good Friday] agreement while many tens of thousands of law-abiding unionists are bitterly opposed.”

Cruiser reckons that Trimble’s goose is well and truly cooked as the politics of the North will now be dominated by the British government doing the bidding of “Sinn FTin-IRA.” Hume, on the other hand, will not be blamed by anyone for what Cruiser believes to be the coming disaster. “John Hume has a Teflon finish. When the talks collapse the unionists will have to take most of the blame, and Gerry Adams will take the rest,” Cruiser concluded.

Meanwhile, the New York Times gave considerable space to the Nobel story. John Hume, readers were informed, began his big day with a bowl of Alpen and bananas but that despite such obviously sensible habits, the 61-year-old SDLP leader might be preparing to take a step back from public life.

Both London-based Warren Hoge and Ireland scribe James Clarity were assigned to the story. Each gave a slightly different view on the nature of the North troubles. According to Hoge, who might have missed out on his Alpen and bananas that morning, the Nobel committee apparently were “seeing in Northern Ireland’s two warring groups a dispute with notable similarities to violent tribal confrontations elsewhere . . .” Clarity saw Hoge’s two tribes and raised him a couple. Hume, he wrote, had been campaigning relentlessly for 30 years “for a peaceful settlement involving the Protestant majority, the Catholic minority and the British Army and police.” More tribes anyone?

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Steady on, George

Irish diplomacy has been coming under the spotlight recently for not the best reasons. George Dempsey, a former U.S. diplomat at Washington’s Dublin embassy, took a swipe at David Andrews and Irish foreign policy — though not at Irish diplomats, who, according to Dempsey are a good as they come — in the Sunday Independent recently. Dempsey reckons that Irish foreign policy often amounts to holier-than-thou posturing.

“For starers,” he wrote, “when did Ireland last overtly express support for the U.S. on a foreign policy matter of any import? During the Gulf War, for instance, Ireland rather grudgingly supported the various UN Security Council resolutions, but it was also the only country in the civilized world which provided no assistance whatsoever to the allies in the war which ousted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.”

Dempsey has a keen eye for some of the undoubted inconsistencies in Irish foreign policy, but he’s wide of the target here.

“Shannon Available for U.S. Gulf Flights,” was a front page headline in the Echo issue of Jan. 16-22, 1991. The following week, the Echo reported that the D_il had voted by a wide margin to support the Irish government’s intention “to provide landing and refueling facilities at Shannon for U.S. aircraft shipping supplies to the Persian Gulf.” On top of that, it was reported that the number of U.S. military aircraft overflying Irish airspace — with the Irish government’s approval — in the build-up to Operation Desert Storm was in the region of 775 a month. Still, it was nice of George to include the auld sod in his list of “civilized” nations. No complaints from “IF” on that score.

Joe Doc, B.A.?

Prisoners are marching out the gates of North prisons, but Joe Doherty has no word yet of when he might be freed under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Doherty was given parole for eight hours in July, to visit his sick father. It was the first time in 19 years that the Doherty family were fully together.

“If there was any fairness in the system, Joe would be home by now,” his mother, Maureen, told the Echo’s Anne Cadwallader. “He’s served 17 and a half years already.”

The British government has allowed half of the nine years Doherty spent in the U.S. awaiting deportation to count against his life sentence.

“He’s filling out the forms like all the rest of them and hoping to hear when he might be freed,” Maureen said. “His form’s great. He’s sitting his last exam for his degree course at Queen’s University.”

Hog’s breadth

“Republican pigs, stay out of Ulster.” Ian Paisley wasn’t referring to his usual enemies in this case. No, the big man, who looks like he has consumed more than his share of Ulster fries over the years, was referring recently to the movement of little piggies from the wee wee Republic to slaughterhouses in the wee wee North.

Apparently, there are huge pig jams at these Northern slaughterhouses and Paisley noted, during an Assembly debate on the crisis, that despite the lines faced by good Ulster pigs, porkers from south of the border were still jumping the queue. In an aside that might have been at attempt at humor — you can’t always tell with the man — Paisley said that at least there was something from the Republic that was “capable of being slain” in the North.

Some took this remark as a joke. But many interpreted the comment literally and expressed shock and unease. Not a few have been saying that Paisley has finally gone too far and should be sent off on his trotters into the retirement pen.

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