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SuperBrit Dave’s 3 or 1 solution

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

"IF" is not entirely unsympathetic towards David Trimble. He’s trying to present the new face of Northern Ireland, and indeed unionism, to the broader world. At the same time, he is still a unionist, and, when he rips his glasses and suit off, he is inclined to become SuperBrit. Part of David’s SuperBrit act is to do with his own deeply held feeling towards the union with Britain. Part of it probably has something to do with the fact that within his party there are more than a few SuperduperBrits who would drop lumps of green kryptonite into his cuppa given half a chance.

Trimble, the emerging statesman, gave way to SuperBrit for a few tense minutes last week in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. It was only a few hours after Trimble spoke soothing words at the launch of the Northern Ireland Industrial Development Board’s North American Roadshow. Trimble, along with Seamus Mallon and Mo Mowlam, was a guest at the annual black tie gala ball hosted by the Ireland Chamber of Commerce USA.

The UUP leader apparently got wind of the fact that the dinner would start up, as it does every year, with renditions of The Star Spangled Banner and Amhrán na bFhiann. God Save The Queen, he was told, was not on the menu. Trimble took umbrage. He let it be known that he wanted either all three anthems to be sung or, if that was not to be the case, just the American one. However, Trimble’s three or one solution didn’t wash with ball organizers. The program went ahead as planned with just the Irish and U.S. anthems. Trimble remained outside the ballroom for both. The result of all this was a 30 minute delay in the program schedule. In one respect it was all a song in a teacup but the Waldorf affair does point to some of the difficulties on the road ahead for all parties wrestling with the North’s newly emerging politics. Perhaps a composite anthem should be devised for events where visiting unionists are on the guest list. "God Save The Star Spangled Tricolor" anyone?

Kitty’s timely reminder

The launch of the Northern Ireland Roadshow was an exercise in promoting a brighter future. Only one speaker went to some length to remind all present where Northern Ireland is still coming from. But Deputy Secretary of Labor Kitty Higgins made her point in such a way that nobody could accuse her of openly stirring the still unsettled pot. Instead, she weaved a touching tale about a young Belfast boy who came to her home outside Washington ten years ago by way of Project Children. The boy, a Catholic, was quizzed by Higgins’s two sons as to whether or not he had ever been on television. The Higgins boys had once been interviewed on the Washington Redskins post-game show. The Belfast boy had also been interviewed once on TV. He had been going to school one damp and foggy morning. He had stopped to finger write his name on a frosted car window. He continued walking down the street. He had not gone far when the care blew up. He was later interviewed by a TV reporter about his brush with death. Having set the scene in context, Higgins went on to describe meeting the now 21-year-old young man during President Clinton’s recent visit to Belfast. She looks upon him as her adopted third son so she was mightily pleased when he told her about the good job he now had at an engineering plant – a job, said Higgins, which, as a Catholic, he would have had no hope of getting only a few years ago. David Trimble was sitting only a few feet away as this little tale of the North’s grim record on fair employment was skillfully woven.

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Fix bayonets!

"IF" misses the daily dose of sun. Nothing to do with fading summer mind. No, the sun in question is "Your Soaraway Sun," the top selling British tabloid of "Gotcha" fame. The Rupert Murdoch-owned paper was at its rip-roaring best recently when it printed a full page that readers could lay on the floor like a prayer mat. It featured Bill and Monica, two presidential seals where one placed one’s left and right knees. On either side there was a spot to put down’s one’s cigar and one’s Altoid mints. One then pointed the prayer page in the direction of the White House anytime "President Sleaze" came on the telly. "And if every reader does their duty we’re certain we can get rid of the president quicker than an Oval Office flash…after all, he’s already on HIS knees."

On matters Irish, the Daily Telegraph sees mostly eye to eye with The Sun. At the launch of the roadshow last week, questions were taken from the press. The ‘Torygraph’ man, at the back of the room, close to the drink, as he pointed out himself, wanted to know if the future would indeed consist of corporate investment as opposed to the "flood of funds to the men of violence."

This little exercise in nostalgia reminded "IF" of a recent piece in the Sunday Tribune by British journalist Roy Greenslade, part of which went thus: "What the Telegraph has always wanted is military victory, so anything short of that is routinely lambasted as appeasement…But newspapers, reflecting a simplistic notion of Sinn Féin which they have forged themselves, cannot accept the need for an historic compromise. They cannot stomach the idea that the party has changed its mind. When the State was at war with the IRA they knew where they stood. They knew the Provos were the enemy. Now it appears that, for the press, peace itself is the enemy."

A rumor of cheese

The roadshow took a diversion at one point last week to the lofty realm of the Sky Club. Trimble, Mallon and Mowlam went on at some length to an assembled group of tour operators and media types extolling the virtues of Northern Ireland as a top tourist destination. Sadly though, some of the wee North’s most tempting lures, food and beverage that is, were rather scarce at an event that went on just a little bit too long. As one disappointed "IF" fan who attended put it: "There was a rumor of cheese."

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