I nearly did my hip this morning. Fell off the chair when I read two side-by-side articles in the VO, both of which – can you believe it? – said negative things about Sinn Féin! I was dizzy for at least ten minutes.
One of the articles focused on the recently-installed Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast, who apparently has brought a copy of the 1916 Proclamation into the Mayor’s parlour, removing some lesser royal portraits while leaving one of QE2 in situ. He did this, we’re told, to show “those hard-line republicans from the Short Strand who helped elect him that he was still one of them”. Parity of esteem my arse.
The other article was Brian Feeney getting stuck into Sinn Féin in West Belfast. “Sinn Féin owns West Belfast” Feeney explains. Me, I like to think those we elect represent us rather than own us, but I see what he’s getting at. Sinn Féin are the most popular party in West Belfast; West Belfast suffers from unemployment and poverty; ergo, Sinn Féin is sitting on its um, hands and failing West Belfast. It’s what they call the ‘Post hoc ergo propter hoc’ argument – because one event follows or coincides with another, there must be a causal relationship between them.
So is there? Has Sinn Féin let down West Belfast? Well, that depends on what power an MP or an MLA or a councillor has. I think I remember some commentator – who was it , now? – telling us our Assembly was only a glorified county council. Not much clout can be expected from council or Stormont quarters, then. Which leaves us with Westminster. Sinn Féin has held the Westminster seat – first Gerry Adams, now Paul Maskey - since God was a boy, so why haven’t they resolved the poverty/unemployment that does indeed plague that constituency?
I don’t know. Maybe an MP can’t - maybe the causes of the poverty are beyond the control of any elected representative from the area. Feeney doesn’t appear to believe that. And it's certainly true that a lot of jobs were brought to West Belfast by the De Lorean company and to the north-west by Fruit of the Loom, and most people at the time credited John Hume with bringing both companies. Alas, their glorious beginnings ended in sad redundancies. And in my uninformed way, when I hear the echoechecho of the near-empty Westminster chamber as yet another north of Ireland issue is being discussed, I get an uneasy feeling that maybe Irish MPs who dutifully push in there pack all the wallop of a eunuch in a harem.
But I could be wrong. Perfectly possible. My hip hurts and I still feel a bit dizzy, I know that.