By Ray O’Hanlon
“IF” has obtained exclusive details about the final episode of the long-running soap saga “Sinnfeld.” So just what are the cast going to do with themselves now that love and bonhomie has replaced all the yada yada yada of the last eight centuries? Well, “IF” can exclusively reveal that Gerry buys a banana farm in Central America, declares it a wee republic and dedicates the rest of his life to eating his favorite breakfast cereal, Gerrios. Kramer McGuinness will play the part of Art Garfunkel in the new Broadway musical “Bridge Over Troubled Waterside.” Humean, the heavy-set delivery guy who really delivered something this time, is heading for Central America in an effort to persuade Gerry to merge his fledgling banana republic with the EU, an even bigger soap saga. If he can’t do that he’ll start farming himself, growing Brussel sprouts. George, the Maine auld scrounger, is heading back to the U.S. to set up an employment agency for clapped out journalists who have nothing to write about now that “Sinnfeld” has passed into history along with other classics such as “Sinn Trek” and “The Adams Family.”
BUT SERIOUSLY, FOLKS So what now lies ahead for the real life Sinn FTin? Just watch the polling numbers post May 22. Sinn FTin will clearly be looking to increase its percentage of the Northern Ireland vote above 17 percent in the upcoming Assembly elections. So where do those votes come from? You don’t have to look too far to see the slightly rumpled crew that is the SDLP.
If, as SF party leaders continually say, the Belfast Agreement is merely the precursor to the next phase of the struggle, the questions arises: Who will SF be struggling against? Forget the British. They will merely be the foil. Again, the only target in immediate sight is John Hume & Co.
The newly pacified SF is hardly likely to attract too many Unionists. Of course, the entirely new twist in the equation is Proportional Representation, a system that will likely ease the fall for all parties given that it gives everybody several chances when votes are counted. Pressure is certainly there for some sort of vote-transferring pact between SF and Hume’s party. But again, SF will be looking to the first-preference voting figures as the signal for what really happens next.
For the SDLP, so long able to present itself as the respectable green alternative to the Shinner/Provo axis, the major question now is not so much what after Hume, but where to find solace and shelter as the Sinn FTin peace bus, reinforced fenders and all, comes roaring over the hill. For the SDLP, a new phase of its struggle is also about to loom large, whether it is ready for it or not.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
CANDY STORE In one story in the Dublin-published Sunday Business Post last weekend readers were treated to republican leaders, ordinary republicans, dissident republicans, mainstream republicans and traditional republicans. N’er a mention of plain old Irish republicans at all.
RUC REFORM Pressure for radical reform of the RUC has been building for years and will be magnified by the likes of last week’s New York Times editorial, which concluded that “reforming the police in Northern Ireland is inseparable from overall progress toward peace.” What are also becoming a little more inseparable from the public imagination are charges linking the security forces, the RUC included, and the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. The Irish News in Belfast recently highlighted an account by BBC reporter John Ware which includes an allegation by the late UDA commander Tommy “Tucker” Lyttle that two RUC detectives urged a prominent UDA gunman to murder Finucane.
The Irish news reported Ware as saying to the British publication, the New Statesman: “While a prominent UDA gunman was being held in Castlereagh, an officer entered the interrogation room and said to his colleague: ‘Have you put it to him yet?’ They then suggested that the UDA shoot Finucane. Lyttle said he was so astonished at this suggestion that he informed a regular contact in the RUC Special Branch . . . the [Special Branch] officer said it would be a bad blow for the Provos to have Finucane removed.”
JUST DUH FACTS, PUHLEEZE Never has there been so much attention paid to l’il ‘ol Oirland in the American meedja and you would think that the flow of reportage would raise the tide of knowledge. Fuhgeddaboudit! First we had Warren Hoge in the New York Times Book Review a few weeks back referring to the Armalite as the IRA’s favorite explosive. “IF” can just see a Provo trying to mold one of those. Bend the barrel, boys! Newsday had a good front page story last Friday about the Maze prison but readers could only have been confused by the photo of loyalist prisoners waving a Red Hand flag on the prison roof with the caption underneath: “IRA prisoners at the Maze decry stricter regulations . . .” There was even a banner with “Loyalist” in the picture.
Meanwhile, zillions of viewers got a creaky geography lesson on “E.R.” last week when Elizabeth, the English doctor, as opposed to patient, chastised her new boyfriend, Dr. Peter Benton, who was reluctant to take her to a blues bar on Chicago’s South Side because it was in a dodgy area. Lizzie let fly at Pete. She had been to the Bogside in Belfast, an IRA stronghold. “IF” was on a ventilator after that one.
TERRY, NEIL AND TIM And why not an Irishman? Terry George’s latest piece of screen work will see the light May 30 on HBO. It is his film rendering of Neil Sheehan’s classic tale of America’s early involvement in Vietnam, the Pulitzer prize-winning “A Bright Shining Lie.” Early on in his book, Sheehan, a former correspondent with UPI and The New York Times – and the journalist primarily responsible for revealing The Pentagon Papers – compares the battles against foreign domination fought by the Vietnamese over the centuries to that of the Irish. Sheehan long ago sold the film rights to his book, so he had no say in who would eventually make the successful bid for it – Oliver Stone passed – but HBO struck the deal and Terry George was enlisted to both wrote the screenplay and direct. The film was shot in Thailand with an Irish/Australian crew.
Vietnam and the war through an Irish eye is nothing new. One of the best diarists of the war from a grunt’s perspective has been Tim “If I Die In A Combat Zone” O’Brien. The HBO outlet, meanwhile, relieves some of the pressure from George’s shoulders. He told the Sunday Business Post in Dublin that the guaranteed audience – potentially 40 million – was the better option following his last film, “Some Mother’s Son,” which only managed to get on a handful of screens in the U.S. “A Bright Shining Lie” will be screened at the Cannes film festival and released in movie theaters outside the U.S.