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6 October 2014

Time UK's enfant terrible and its leaders wised up

Peter Taylor

Like many outsiders who became involved during the terrible times and somehow never can break free, however frustrated and angry I get, I love Northern Ireland and many of its inhabitants.

Peter Taylor is a kindred spirit. He has been writing and making documentaries in many of the world's trouble spots and on many different issues for more than 40 years, but somehow he keeps returning.

What made his film Who Won the War last Monday so interesting were interviews with people he'd known from the beginning.

The saddest contribution was from ex-prisoner Sean, interviewed at the age of 12 in Divis Flats vowing to fight British soldiers when he grew up, and at 52 an old man.

He would advise a similar boy not to do what he did, he said, adding pathetically that he believed Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness (whose leadership had ruined his life) would deliver a united Ireland.

Most direct was Seamus Mallon, describing how Ian Paisley, seeing the crown within reach, stopped saying "Never, never, never" and said "Yes, please. And quick". Another honest man was ex-IRA hunger striker Gerard Hodgins, who admitted freely that the British had won the war.

"The IRA are too clever to tell the full truth of what was actually negotiated," he said, "and unionists are just too stupid to recognise the enormity of what they have achieved in bringing the IRA to a negotiated settlement which accepts the six county state."

Peter Robinson agreed: "Unionists are capable of extracting a defeat from the jaws of victory and nationalists and republicans are capable of gaining victory from the jaws of defeat."

Other participants proved the truth of what Messrs Hodgins and Robinson were saying. In the teeth of stark evidence to the contrary, Martin McGuinness lied again that what the IRA had been killing and dying for was equality.

In addition to the deluded claim that it was loyalist violence rather than the British Army that prevented a united Ireland, Billy Hutchinson embarked on the usual whinge about how "working-class unionists and loyalists in Northern Ireland feel they haven't gained anything from the peace process".

You're a paid representative of these people, Billy. You know perfectly well that unionists won. It's your job and that of every other unionist leader to tell your followers every day at maximum volume that they won, that the Union is safe, they're getting over-excited about flags and emblems and they should now get on with addressing social problems.

What really annoyed me was Martin McGuinness's preposterous "Ian-and-me" routine. Apparently, the late Lord Bannside said, "Martin, we don't need those people coming over from England telling us what to do".

"Those people"! Did you two mean the British taxpayers who picked up the tab because between you you'd wrecked the province, who paid the English, Scottish and Welsh soldiers who died in defence of democracy, the police and public servants who kept the place going and even the paramilitaries' dole?

Or were you dissing the politicians and officials who struggled for four decades to stop the violence and persuade you to govern together?

Is there no limit to the ingratitude and the sense of entitlement of those infantilised by negative leaders like "Ian and me" into believing that the rest of the UK owed them a living?

Knowing that public spending per person in Northern Ireland is higher than anywhere on the mainland, how has anyone the brass neck to demand more?

In blocking welfare reform, Sinn Fein are prepared to see police and university resources slashed, all hope of justice for historic victims abandoned and Stormont brought down because being aggressive and Left wing is thought to play well with poor voters down south.

So what makes the SDLP ape them? And why do the garden centre Prods, as they lament that their children are gone, still refuse to participate in politics, or even vote?

Rather than demanding money with menaces from Westminster, it's time to recognise that its patience has almost run out.

If direct rule proves inevitable, expect more, not less, austerity, and much more talk about responsibilities than rights.

There aren't that many people around who still love Northern Ireland.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards