Monday, 4 April 2011
Missing the bloody point
Anyway, it meant I got listening to the entire Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster. It was a phone-in about, predictably, the killing of PC Ronan Kerr, and it was wonderful and pathetic by turn.
The wonderful: it allowed caller after caller to come on air and express their grief and sympathy at the loss of what sounds like a cheerful, good young man. There was quite a bit of weeping as well – men and women. The programme allowed people to reveal their pain and their fears over the incident. It was also wonderful because, while 99% of the callers were filled with grief and rage at what had been done, Nolan played an excerpt of a phone-in he did in England on BBC Radio Five Live over the week-end. It featured a man called Edward. That was wonderful because Edward said he didn’t condemn the Omagh killing.
Why did Edward not condemn the killing and what was marvellous about that? Well, Edward is a former IRA man and he said he wouldn’t condemn young Kerr’s death because he understood it. Or rather, he understood the motivation behind this killing and others that, he claimed, would follow. One root problem led to the killing of young Kerr: the interference of Britain in the affairs of Ireland.
As I said, the Edward clip was from Nolan’s phone-in in England over the week-end, so we got some of the English reaction and then some reaction from here in the north. Yep, you’ve guessed correctly: in England and here they were furious with him. English people, people from the north of Ireland, people from the south. “Get that boy off!” one caller demanded, even though Edward was long gone.
The pathetic: the response to Edward. Nolan was at his most inept - “People like you scare me” he told Edward. Others, as I say, wanted him silenced. Others said he was heartless. Others that he was inhuman, others that he had been involved in killing Constable Kerr. A young man of Kerr’s age started weeping and saying that he didn’t care about politics. Another caller said if people like Edward didn’t like it “in this country”, let him go down south and live in Ireland. Another said why would anyone want Irish unity, the south of Ireland was bankrupt. Some said he frightened them because he spoke so calmly. More said he clearly wasn’t right in the head.
It was, in short, a grief/indignation feast, with everyone, including Nolan, failing to address the root cause which Edward had put forward. It was as if someone had tossed a firecracker into a flock of pigeons – shrieks and feathers everywhere, general confusion.
Nolan is a BBC broadcaster and the BBC claims to be energetic in its interviews but unshakeable in its objectivity. He can be very effective – that’s why he’s so popular. But today Nolan failed on both counts – useless questions while making it clear he was opposed to Edward and his thinking.
The claim that Edward should be removed from the air? Very silly. We’ve been down that counter-productive route, when Sinn Féin were muzzled in the 1980s. Edward was a psychopath? Name-calling is no good – they used to say the same thing about the IRA. He should “go down south and live in Ireland”? Mother of God. That’s the language of 1970s DUP backwoodsmen. And so it went on – people coming on-air, firing a volley of verbal shots at a man who wasn’t there and missing him by a country mile. What could have been an absorbing and maybe educative debate and interview subsided into a baying phone-in mob.
Put simply, Edward believes that Sinn Féin are helping administer British rule here, that the only thing which will loosen British control is force, and while he regrets Irishmen killing Irishmen, it’s the only way. No one came on to defend Sinn Féin peaceful strategy for reunification. No one said anything more insightful than “Killing is wrong”. In fact, no one seemed to listen to Edward, they were so busy being outraged.
If you believe in argument and debate as distinct from demonising and name-calling, you owe it to yourself to set an example. When the chance arises to argue with an opponent, it should be grasped and your argument should be clear, logical and convincing. Neither the host Nolan nor his phone-in participants seized this morning’s opportunity. There’s just one word for it: pathetic.