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10 August 2015

Be grateful and ignore Sinn Fein's victimhood myth

Davy Adams

We won the lottery of life, said Davy Adams last week in an interview with Adrian Rutherford in this newspaper. Once a member of the Ulster Defence Association and later a spokesman for the Ulster Democratic Party, Mr Adams was talking of his work over the past decade with Goal, the international aid agency.

Talking of the "accident of birthplace", he pointed out that: "We happen to be born in a part of the world where everything is plentiful". The people whom he helps "were unfortunate to be born in places where disease is rampant, there are floods, droughts and so on."

That's a view we should constantly repeat to the peddlers of the Mope (Most Oppressed People Ever) version of Irish history. People born on the island of Ireland are lucky, lucky, lucky.

Martin McGuinness is Moper-in-chief at the moment, whingeing at home and abroad about the special circumstances that should protect Northern Ireland from facing up to the need for welfare reform.

"The Tory Government," he complains, "has singularly failed to accept the unique circumstances and needs of a society moving out of conflict."

In other words, fill up the begging bowl again, or some cross people might do something nasty.

Such threats don't work with the British government these days. The debate over the Scottish referendum resulted in ordinary English voters becoming aware of, and vexed about, the inequality in public spending caused by the Barnett formula (£8,529 per head in England, £9,709 in Wales, £10,152 in Scotland and £10,876 in Northern Ireland).

The Prime Minister whom they voted in was David Cameron, not Ed Miliband. And they won't any time soon be electing that friend of Sinn Fein, the naif Jeremy Corbyn.

When Sinn Fein leaders shout at Mr Cameron that he must raid the heavily indebted Treasury to help the Stormont Executive "in overcoming decades of neglect and underinvestment and dealing with the legacy of the conflict", he looks at McGuinness and Gerry Adams and sees the people who wrecked the place. He knows the IRA blew up factories and murdered industrialists.

The British government will be fair to Northern Ireland, but it is not prepared any longer to reward bad behaviour, or further encourage the dependency culture.

When, in the 1980s, I first began visiting the province regularly, I used to like on a Sunday morning to walk up the Falls Road and down the Shankill, or vice-versa. I always ended up profoundly depressed that a city with so many natural advantages was being destroyed by knaves and fools.

At conferences, loyalist and republican spokesmen blaming everyone except themselves and the organisations for which they were apologists annoyed me intensely, but I always liked and respected Davy Adams, who was thoughtful, open-minded and had an independent spirit.

It was bad for Northern Ireland, but probably fortunate for Adams that he failed to win an Assembly seat in 1998. He became a deservedly well-regarded columnist with the Irish Times, where he attracted the attention of John O'Shea of Goal, a plain-speaker who never hesitated to name and shame corrupt and brutal governments and denounce Western donors for shoring them up.

Talking to this newspaper about his experiences working with the wretched of the earth, he talked about how perspective caused him problems when he returned home.

"As soon as you arrive in Europe, you just sense how rich we are compared to other parts of the world. We just have far, far more than we need." And so we do.

Talking about the plight of the millions desperate to get to our continent, a friend told me of an image from the scientist and novelist CP Snow. The inhabitants of the West, he said, were like diners in a luxury restaurant with glass walls against which the faces of the starving are pressed.

We should accept that we are winners of the lottery that Davy Adams spoke about. Ireland would be a better place if we listened to people like him, counted our blessings and shared our winnings with the desperate, rather than following the morally bankrupt leadership of grievance-mongers constantly demanding an ever-bigger portion from the pot.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards