Friday, 15 January 2010
Every so often I’m struck by how little we know. I don’t mean in terms of knowledge generally or the amassed wisdom of ages past – every time I walk through a library I’m struck by that - I’ll never read 99.99% of what is there, let alone master it - but the knowledge of things to come. I’m sometimes introduced on radio as a ‘commentator’, with the implication that my comments will not just make sense of the present but point a beam of light towards the future. And it’s certainly true that in times of crisis or change, the one thing everyone wants to know is ‘What’s going to happen?’ Well, might I suggest you figure it out for yourself rather than approach a ‘commentator’ such as myself (and, I might humbly add, I amn’t the worst of them). A quick example from about three years ago and one from last week.
About three years ago: Eoghan Harris predicted at a ‘West Belfast Talks Back’ that at the next 26-counties election, Fianna Fail would ‘mop up’ the remaining Sinn Fein seats. I took a bet with him at 10-1, witnessed by about four hundred people, that he was wrong. If anyone would like to replicate that bet with me, I’m game. Harris is an uber-commentator. This example will show how little he knows.
Last week: my former column colleague in the revered Irish News, Brian Feeney, last week declared that there wasn’t a chance of Policing and Justice being devolved, that it was a dead duck, deceased, ex-, finished. Today there are indications that a deal may be done on p and j over this weekend. Mind you, if he does get it wrong – and I’ve £50 says he has – it wouldn’t be the first time. He bet a bottle of champagne (how awfy classy) that the Catholic population here would register in the high 40s at the last census. Smite your forehead and fall to the floor rending your garments: he lost.
I remember during August 1969 in the Bogside hearing a young agitator, rushing off to get some more ammo, shout ‘Don’t believe anything anyone says about what’s going to happen – except Bernadette Devlin and Eamonn McCann!’ The first half of his sentence was spot on.