Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Henry and our history
I remember Henry Kelly. Yes, that one – the one who presented ‘Game for a Laugh’ and ‘Going for Gold’ on TV. When he went for this red-nose, mass-market end of things, there was a cry that he’d abandoned serious journalism, what a loss. I also remember him at UCD in the early 1960s, where he was part of the Jesuit-educated, middle-class glitterati who ruled the Literary and Historical Society roost and had such fun making witty speeches in the big lecture hall in Earlsfort Terrace. Flash forward several years and I remember him again as a young journalist in the Pearl Bar in Dublin. He was the Irish Times’s anointed Northern reporter, and he was telling anyone who would listen that ‘There’s a gun for every rumour and a rumour for every gun up there’. (No, I don’t know what that means and I suspect he didn’t either). Anyway, Henry has popped up again in the Irish Times this week, doing that thing which hints at self-obsession: quoting himself. “I asked whether there had ‘ever been anything in Northern Ireland so bad it was worth smacking a child for?’ “ In this recent article he pulls back a bit from that but he does make clear that in his view, southern reporters like himself were far too prone to take the nationalist side and should have been more sympathetic to unionists.
Hooray for Henry. He’s now joined – or rejoined – the ranks of such as Kevin Myers and Colm Tóibín and countless other southern pundits who live to reject nationalism and put their arm around the shoulders of unionism. All that stuff about decades of discrimination and bigotry: ach sure there was no need for all that violence, the unionists with Captain Terence O’Neill were ready to give Catholics an even break only then the IRA started killing people and having got the taste for blood, wouldn’t stop.
I suppose if you repeat a perverted version of history often enough, people will come to believe it. Better still, you’ll begin to believe it yourself.