Out of Depth – Tory MP Sunk in Ignorance

There is an old saying: “Before opening one’s mouth, first engage one’s brain” (providing you have one).

It would seem that David Davis, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Monmouth, is unaware of, or just simply ignored such advice when he ventured into the written media – and on the air on Radio Wales – with comments on Steve McQueen’s prize-winning film. Hunger.

This publicity‑seeking politician, when questioned, admitted that he hadn’t seen the film yet still asserted that it was just another piece of IRA propaganda. He also objected to the giving of public money to a company in Wales which was involved in the making of the film. I wonder if he might consider the cost of his self-promoting publication just recently delivered (as he boasts) to 30,000 homes as falling into the same category.

He failed to substantiate any real case in his attack on this investment and was ably rebutted by a representative from the funding body. In addition he was wildly off the remark in his view of the contents of the film which won the prestigious Caméra d’or prize at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

I myself had the opportunity to join in the phone‑in programme on Radio Wales and gave him a potted history lesson, covering the last eighty years or so, on the background of the relationship between the two islands, about which he had no knowledge and clearly no understanding. To him my robust intervention was unexpected and helped to expose his stupidity in entering the field with such a paucity of understanding of the problems.

However, there is one thing about which he and I and listeners could agree when he said that “My conception of history was not the same as his.”

Unlike his, mine was based on experience, knowledge and understanding, so clearly absent in his case which is also so often obviously apparent in many of his other pronouncements.

There is still much concern at the failure to resolve the impasse between the DUP and Sinn Féin on the issue of the devolution of policing and justice powers. The Joint Executive has not met since June. I am not very sanguine about an early end to this saga, but it appears that both parties have separate meetings recently and there is a suggestion the the Executive might meet on Thursday November 20th.

Denis Bradley however, writing in the Irish News on 7th November, is quite upbeat saying, “Before long the Executive will be meeting and taking decisions that have been piling up in the waiting tray. There will be a date for the devolution of policing and justice and there will be some announcements about the Kesh and about respect, appreciation and support for minorty languages.”

The President elect of the USA, Barack Obama, is now rather strangely being claimed to having his ancestral home located in Moneygall, County Offaly (pop. 299) or so it is reported in the Belfast Telegraph 6th. November – apparently his ancestors left for America in the 1850s. He has already signalled his desire to see it.

However, there is also a dispute with Wales in the offing as there are claims that he has some family links there.

The question of Vice‑President Elect is another matter, as two rival claims are being made concerning his Irish family connections. One is that Senator Biden’s mother’s family came from Derry, the other is that his family originated from Carlingford in County Louth. No doubt some opportunity will arise for one or other of these claimed places of origin to receive some reflected glory from a personal visit to the area – the tourist industry will see to that.

Not to be outdone, up jumps a Democratic Unionist Party Stormont Junior Minister and renegade from the Ulster Unionist Party, Jeffrey Donaldson, to reproach President Elect Obama for having been photographed alongside Rita O’Hare, one of the most prominent Republicans (Irish) on the run since 1971. For the last ten years she has been representing Sinn Féin in the United States. Donaldson, metaphorically wagging a finger, warns ‘O’Bama’ that he must not be partisan in his approach to Northern Ireland.

My own advice to Barack as he takes on what is said to be the biggest job in the world is to heed the advice he spoke of during his campaign which he had from his late grandmother: “In any issue, try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes..”.

Sir Hugh Orde, the Northern Ireland Chief Constable, told a House of Commons committee that he estimates the cost to the Police Service of Northern Ireland of the recent army ‘Homecoming Parade’ was in excess of £300,000 which could have been spent on routine community policing had the situation been less tense.

Apart from the cost I believe it was a mistake to have that parade against the background of commemmorations arranged in the Republic to remember those from all over Ireland who had sacrificed their lives serving in the British Forces in the two world wars.

The demonstrations in the centre of Belfast in support of the ‘Welcome Home’ event were clearly of a triumphalist tribal nature and roused tensions unnecessarily. In order to diminish the possibility of dissident Republicans taking advantage of these tensions Sinn Féin had no alternative but to themselves take over the protest against this provocative parade.

The organisers of the parade were engaged in coat trailing and without the policing arrangements and the cooperation of the protest organisers a serious situation might have occurred.

The Remembrance Day service, a week later, with the returning soldiers joining in, would have been the better way of them being welcomed hom – it seems that that event went off without tension.

Since starting to write this article a few days ago I have been overtaken by events. Denis Bradley, whom I quoted earlier, proved to be right on the mark. The Executive will meet on Thgursday 20 November and an agreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin has been reached which will be reported then. This will clear the way for the devolution of police and justice powers to the Assembly.

It appears that the resulting organisation will be headed by a human rights lawyer who has been involved in cases pursued by both sides and who will function as an attorney general. Fuller details will be made known following Thursday’s resumption of Executive meeting.

It is worth noting that lawyer Paddy Finucane also had a record of taking up cases from both communities and that President Elect Obama, whilst serving as a senator, backed a demand for a public inquiry into Finucane’s asassination seven years ago, a demand that has not yet been conceded.

While some progress has taken place since the days of bloody turmoil, it still is very slow and tortuous. The Bloody Sunday Inquiry is an example – the report of the findings in relation to an event 36 years ago will not be published until late in 2009.

It took many years to have the inquiry set up and time still drags on leaden feet.

If David Davis, the MP for Monmouth, had even the remotest idea of any of the events in the recent history of the relationship between Ireland and Great Britain, he would not have been so asinine in the remarks he made about the film ‘Hunger’,

I trust that he has had his burnt fingers seen to and his reddened countenance reduced in colour...

©: Samuel H. Boyd, Cwmbran, Wales, 19 November 2008.

Samuel H. Boyd