Some observations from South Belfast.
The snow – it’s almost May!!! – is falling quite heavily outside and I’ve just heard a rumour that the Syrian refugees who are arriving today to start a new life, refused to get off the bus taking them to their new homes. Apparently the combination of snow and seeing the frightful pictures of Jim Allister adorning the lamp-posts was just too much. It must have been quite a shock and the war ravaged land they left behind doesn’t seem so bad now.
It was quite disgusting to read in the Daily Mail that Bernard Ingham, Maggie Thatcher’s snarling former press secretary, refused to apologise over the remarks he made about the Liverpool fan’s behaviour during the Hillsborough tragedy when 96 fans lost their lives. The fans have been totally vindicated and the city breathed a collective sigh of relief when the two-year long inquest decision was announced. A horrible man, he accused the Liverpool fans of being ‘drunken yobs’ who contributed to the tragedy. My most vivid memory of him though is pushing reporter John Sargent out of the way before John was able to ask a question of Maggie. This always brings a smile to my face– great stuff.
With the forthcoming elections gathering momentum and the dreaded ‘party political broadcasts’ assailing our screens I’m starting to encounter the feelings of uncertainty I always get about the results. My concerns are fed by the apparent wide-reaching influence of the Pan-Nationalist front and the constant attempts to re-write events and History in general. A friend of mine – a community development worker, told me of a conversation he had some time ago with a group of Americans he had done some work with. After offering three of them a lift back to their hotel, a conversation started about things in general in Northern Ireland. One of the Americans, sitting in the front, asked could she ask a question. He said of course. ‘Why did the Loyalists rob the Northern Bank and blame it on the Catholics?’ she said. Trying hard to hold back his laughter he replied, ‘that didn’t happen’. She replied, ‘Oh, it did. And they left £20,000 on the Falls Road to get them the blame.’ Unable to hold back his laughter but attempting to be polite and not get into an argument with her, he asked, ‘Where did you hear that?’ She said, ‘It was in our local paper back home in Philadelphia’. This is one indication of the task we are up against. What fills me with renewed hope though is that a lot of young Catholics seem to be happy with the current Status Quo. They feel that the concept of inequality has been dealt with and they see themselves as equal citizens in this Country.
The recent tragedy of Aaron Strong brings back again the dangers lurking for our young people. Aaron had a massive heart attack and is in a coma after taking a cocktail of street and prescription drugs. His family are devastated. Aaron was due to start a new job soon in Bournemouth and that, sadly, won’t happen now. Our thoughts are with the family.
I see that Sin Fein have started their usual pre-election rant about being marginalised and that they are the victims of having billboards defaced, stolen and paint-bombed. Maybe they should call for an inquiry – they do for everything else! By the way, just read a good article in ‘thedetail’ by Steven McCaffery about the apparent fading of Peter Robinson’s star in the political sphere. It’s all ‘Operation Arlene’ at the moment – I seem to remember something similar happening to Ian Paisley snr. I wonder how ‘I P’ junior feels about that?