Sometimes I despair of the American people – their latest lunacy shows up in nominating the likes of Christine O’Donnell as Republican candidates for their mid-term elections, not to mention several other Tea Party loopers. Not content with one Sarah Palin, they’ve now cloned what looks like and sounds like a second. Yes, it’s good to see Americans concerned for the welfare of their country; but do candidates have to have a lobotomy before they can rise in the Republican party?
I was seething with contempt until I watched TV on Friday night and then opened the Venerable Organ this morning. Mother of God, what’s this? It’s some people lining up to propose their nomination for The Greatest Irish Person. They don’t say ‘The Greatest Irish Person Ever’ but that’s what they mean. And they are? Oh God forgive me for writing them but here they are: Bono, John Hume, James Connolly, Mary Robinson, Michael Collins, Michael Flatley. OK, OK, I made up the last one – there are just five. But in the name of God and the dead generations from which Ireland receives her old tradition of nationhood, have we sunk to this?
John Hume is a man I admire - that’s why, with Martin McGuinness, he’ll be joint guest of honour at the launch of my new book ‘Tales Out of School: St Columb’s College Derry in the 1950s’ at Lumen Christi College, Derry on Wednesday 22nd at 7.30 pm. (If you’re going to plug, plug shamelessly.) But John as the greatest Irish person ever? And then there’s Bono. He’s done a lot for the developing world, I’m told. He’s also done a nifty side-step so he doesn’t pay Irish tax on his media millions. Plus hundreds of Irish priests, nuns and laity have devoted their lives to the developing world – do they get nominated? Ah no. They don’t front a pop band that never recorded a single song you could whistle or hum. As for Mary Robinson: I’m struggling to see how someone who resigned from the Irish Labour Party because she thought the Anglo-Irish Agreement was unfair to unionists could be the greatest Irish person ever. Michael Collins and James Connolly? Well yes, they’re worth considering. But did you see who was proposing them on TV on Friday night? Joe Duffy did the pitch for James Connolly (funny, I’ve never heard Joe, in all his decades on TV, espousing a socialist position) and (I can hardly bring myself to say this) Michael McDowell is proposing – brace yourself – Michael Collins.
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dearydearydear. The man who kept warning us against the demons of paramilitarism – sorry, against the demons of REPUBLICAN paramilitarism. The man who was never happier than when cataloguing the suffering that Irish republicans had visited on the north over the last forty years. The man who could barely sit in the same room with Gerry Adams without breaking out in hives. This same man now toasts Michael Collins, the most totally ruthless and the most totally successful guerilla leader Ireland has ever produced. And McDowell comes on telly and says ‘Isn’t he great, vote for him! ‘
No wonder Tom Lehrer said, when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, that satire from now on would be impossible. Besides which, the whole idea of saying ‘This person is the GREATEST’ is dumb beyond words. Nobody knows what the criteria are, nobody knows how you compare a man of war (Collins, Connolly) with a man of peace (John Hume) or a man of self-congratulatory posturing (Bono). But do you know what? It’s almost worth it, to see that ghastly man McDowell flushed out for the double-standards excuse for an ex-politician that he clearly is.
Meantime, for God’s sake don’t vote in this dumb contest. You'll only encourage the Venerable Organ.