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Sunday 1 February 2015


Like Pearse, McGuinness is misleading followers

The North's deputy first minister told a SF meeting that a united Ireland is imminent. He's deluded

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

Kind friends invited me to stay with them last week in the Canary Islands, where I spent much of my time reading about the leaders of 1916, for - to commemorate the centenary - I'm writing a book about the signatories of the Proclamation.

The first biography I wrote was of Patrick Pearse, and though I then took a long professional detour away from Irish history, events on our little island keep drawing me back to the Easter Rising.

So it was fitting that as I was following on my Kindle happenings in the GPO in 1916, I learned from my laptop of Martin McGuinness's rallying cry to the Sinn Fein faithful in Omagh apropos three upcoming elections which are to take them to the promised land: Westminster, May 2015; Stormont May 2016; and the Dail sometime in the next year or so. "These elections give us the opportunity to take more huge strides towards our ultimate goal," he explained, "to put our struggle on to a new trajectory where the unity of our country and the establishment of the 1916 Republic becomes inevitable."

I read the report of his speech and then returned to the attempts of a nationalist chronicler to explain why Patrick Pearse lied so much to the people he led.

Pearse was a man who venerated truth in his day-to-day life, yet he spent most of his last days on earth sending communiques to beleaguered Dublin rebels reporting the imminent arrival of mythical marching men from the country and forces from overseas (our "gallant" German allies) who would bring victory to the forces of the republic. Was it simply that he was a brilliant propagandist who by now was on autopilot, or did he actually believe the nonsense he was disseminating?

Is Martin McGuinness - who knows perfectly well that for the foreseeable future only a tiny number of people north or south want a united Ireland - just whistling to keep up the spirits of his followers? Or is it that he simply can't face the truth that the IRA campaign was counter-productive, so he has to keep the fantasy-plates spinning?

Both those elements are in there, but there are others. If you spend your life lying, you have only a tenuous grasp of reality. But the element we often miss in the south is the tribalism. Republicans are masters of the art of "winding up the Prods" and feeding into their paranoia. Having fought for three decades for a united Ireland and been beaten by unionist doggedness and the British army, they settled for partition and Stormont, but succeeded in spinning their defeat as victory - a big lie swallowed by credulous republicans and dim unionists.

In Omagh, McGuinness was banging a tribal drum, reckoning that the beat will fire up his activists and get the opposition worked up and ever more inclined to fight amongst themselves. Unlike the obedient, cultish republicans, unionists are a disputative bunch.

McGuinness is also intent on trying to finish off the SDLP, whose death is often erroneously reported: at present, in Westminster, it has three MPs to Sinn Fein's five.

McGuinness was furious with the SDLP when he spoke in Omagh, castigating it for refusing Sinn Fein's invitation to an anti-unionist electoral pact on the grounds that it opposed "sectarian head-count" politics. He's busy distorting this into a rejection of progressive politics.

That great man Professor John A Murphy - who hates phonies -wrote last week in response to the Irish Times coverage of the Omagh speech that McGuinness "cherishes a bogus mystique that 'the establishment of the 1916 Republic is inevitable'. (He does not recognise the present living Republic of Ireland.) This self-delusion is the only source of his optimism about imminent unity. It is only to be hoped that his simplistic views do not damage the real work for peace and reconciliation in Ireland."

They do, of course. What really winds up the Prods is the deceit. As David Trimble put it when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, his tradition "puts a great price on the precise use of words, and uses them with circumspection, so much that our passion for precision is often confused with indifference to idealism."

It's tough on them that they're up against people who can't or won't differentiate between truth and lies and who therefore - while spouting the rhetoric of love - keep hatred alive.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards