I have this recurring nightmare. I'm in a room and I'm sitting opposite a row of people who are looking at me very hard. I'm in this room because I've answered an ad for a job and I'm reasonably confident I can get it. I'm experienced, I come with good references and I've got loads of academic degrees to support my claim. For the past twenty years I've been working in an area that shows how good I am at the job that's been advertised. Then the nightmare starts and continues for the next half-hour. It's a nightmare because the row of people keep asking me what experience did I have when I was twenty, were there any people out there who might have written bad references for me, and how many degrees did I have when I was twenty years of age? "But - but - are you not supposed to be asking me about what qualities I bring to this job now - not how qualified I was when I was twenty!" The line of people behind the desk glower at me. "We'll decide what questions get asked. Now, how qualified for this job would you say you were you when you were nineteen?"
It started last week and this morning I checked with my doctor. "Can you give me a prescription, doctor? I really need to get some decent sleep". "I can" he says. "I prescribe that you stop listening to the radio, watching TV and reading newspapers".
He's a good doctor but I find it impossible to follow his prescription. As I go tappity-tap here on my keyboard, I hear the voice of Norman Tebbit on the Stephen Nolan show talking about events that occurred in the 1980s. He's talking about how his wife was injured in an IRA bomb, and when it's pointed out that for twenty years now, the latest entrant to the Irish presidential election has been working might and main to end the violence and has successfully forged relationships with former enemies, he shrugs that off. What Norman Tebbit wants is repentance by Martin McGuinness. He didn't say "It's words, not deeds that count" but he came pretty close.
Some facts. If we don't know that terrible pain was inflicted by republicans, by unionists/loyalists and by the British army, then we're so buck stupid we should just go away and sit in a corner. Since we know about it, let's either shut up about it or - as Martin McGuinness himself has urged - there should be a Truth Commission where everyone -EVERYONE - puts their cards -ALL their cards - on the table. Including the British government. "Youse did this" and "Youseuns did that" could go ticky-tacking on to the crack of doom.
I'm an optimist. I think the people of the south (no, Virginia, sorry my dear, there is no vote for you in this election) - I think the southern electorate will judge Martin McGuinness on the basis of what kind of man he is. Not was. Is. If they do so judge him, then the idea that they would then vote for Gay Mitchell, Michael D Higgins or (God forbid) David Norris is simply laughable.