Monday, February 2, 2009
The First Day Of Spring
February 1st 09
The First Day Of Spring.
Lá Féile Bríde faoi mhaise daoibh. Today is the first day of Spring here in Ireland. Saint Brigid’s Day. The days are lengthening. By a rooster’s step every day, the rural elders tell us. And crocuses and daffodils are peeking through and visible in sheltered spots. It is always a great joy to feel the change of seasons that we enjoy here in this small island. I like all the seasons but Spring always has the capacity to uplift our spirits. So too does the annual Féile An Earraigh in Belfast, an established part of Féile an Phobail. If you are about these parts from the fifth of February to the eighth and are interested in the best of ceol agus craic, debate, drama, mountain walks, literary matters, exhibitions or dancing then check out www.feilebelfast.com
This blog is a highly mobile affair this week. I am in the car putting it together, poking away at the laptop. Don’t worry I’m not driving. On my way to Derry for the annual Bloody Sunday rally. Bairbre de Brún, one of today’s speakers, reminds me that that massacre happened thirty seven years ago. That’s hard to believe. It doesn’t seem so long ago. It is also a matter of particular satisfaction, and I am sure a matter of great consolation to the families of the Bloody Sunday civil rights martyrs, that so many people turn out year after year despite the virtual media blackout. Apart from the times I was in prison I have made this journey most years.
The Eames-Bradley Report will no doubt be in many people's minds. As I write it is being discussed on RTE’s This Week radio programme. The focus understandably is on last Wednesday’s rowdy scenes at the launch of the report. In my view the television and other media images give the wrong impression of what happened. It wasn’t ‘rival victims groups’ fighting with each other. There were a few hundred people there, most of them victims or bereaved families of victims. I have no doubt they represented all sides and no doubt also that many of them were feeling raw and vulnerable as they assembled in the large room in the Europa Hotel. But they did so quietly and with dignity.
Traditional Unionist Voice, the breakaway group led by former DUP member Jim Allister MEP, had a small picket on the hotel. Later they went into the event itself and positioned themselves in front of the platform. There they stood for some time. When they were eventually asked to move by the organisers they refused, even though they they were told they were welcome to stay in the hall. That is when some of their number started to verbally abuse the Commission. This went on for some time. It was during this period that some of the audience, not unreasonably called on them to move. They in turn were screamed at. And so it went on until Robin Eames, Denis Bradley and the other commissioners arrived on the platform to be interrupted and heckled as well as the rest of us.
There has been a certain focus on the attention I received from some of the protestors. I can understand why anyone who has suffered at the hands of republicans would feel sore at me. Families bereaved by the IRA are entitled to make their feelings clear. However the fact is that those who did the most blatant grandstanding were acting out of political opportunism as opposed to personal loss. Fact is that this was not welcomed by the vast majority of the audience listening to them. A number of people talking to me afterwards, while telling me they were not supporters of Sinn Féin, made it clear that they wanted no part of the Traditional Unionist Voice carry on. They included one former RUC officer.
There was a huge turn out at the Bloody Sunday rally. The news from that front is that the very patient and dignified families of the dead of Bloody Sunday are now taking legal action in an attempt to get sight of the Report of the Saville Commission at the same time as the British Government. As it sits at present the Brits will get the report in advance of anyone else and as the families said at the rally that’s not fair.
Of course Saville himself could settle that issue by making sure the families get his report. He should also publish it soon.
On a lighter note. Back in the Assembly. A few months ago at Stormont showers were installed in some of the toilets. They are called restrooms on the hill. The following notice is affixed to the one close to my office. TAKE NOTE. THIS SHOWER IS TO BE USED ONLY FOR SHOWERING PURPOSES.
And Finally… Finally.
Talking of restrooms. I was resting in one recently. So was Jim Wells, DUP MLA
‘Good morning Jim,’ I said.
He ignored me, having more important matters in hand I supposed. So undeterred and rather naively in my friendly way I prattled on.
‘Sunday was the first day of Spring’ I suggested, having heard that Jim is a big environmentalist.
‘Monster’ he hissed ‘Monster ……..’
And then he left.
Ach well …… I don’t know if he was talking to me or not. Or maybe our Jim is a fan of the Addams Familee? Who knows? Who can tell? Is this heaven? Or is this hell?