Saturday, December 6, 2008

The problem of Maria has wider dimensions

Malcolm, back home after various alarums and excursions (of which, doubtless, more anon), is catching up with the local intelligence.

One story, dealt with at length by today's Times is:
My journey from IRA gunrunner to Tory lady councillor in Croydon
That story (with a front-page, and very fetching image -- right) has been cooking quite nicely over recent days, until finally making the national dailies. Pretty well everything Malcolm felt about this story was said by Kevin Myers in the Belfast Telegraph:
The Conservative cabinet minister for education in Croydon Borough Council, Maria Gatland, has resigned her post after the revelation that, 35 years ago, she was a member of the IRA.

Back then, she was known as Maria Maguire, the glamour face of Provisionalism, a middle-class girl from Dublin who'd been caught up in post-Bloody Sunday emotionalism.

But a decent enough creature underneath it all, and disgusted by the IRA slaughter of Bloody Friday, she not merely left the movement, but also spilled the beans to British intelligence. And having been sentenced to death by her former chums, including her bed-partner, Daithi O'Connell, she went into hiding.

Well, if that isn't having made amends, then what is? Look at the prime architects of her early decisions in life. Mike Jackson, adjutant of the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday, went on to become head of the British Army, a knight of the realm with a DSO and Bar. Gerry Adams, the most senior member of the IRA in Belfast during the Bloody Sunday butchery, has since been a guest of the British Prime Minister at Downing Street and at Chequers, and of the US president at the White House. His books have made him a millionaire. But poor Maria's political career is in ruins.

I know nothing of Maria Maguire's reinvention as Maria Gatland, Conservative politician, just that she had to go into hiding, to change her name, and to create a new identity, to save her from being murdered by the very organisation whose leaders have since been welcomed on deep-pile carpets in London and Washington.

So by those same rules, she should have been welcomed by the Tory party, and congratulated for the blow she'd struck against the IRA, at grave risk to her own life. Instead, her fellow Conservatives have tut-tutted over her ‘shameful’ past.
Myers is rarely Malcolm's opinion-maker of choice, but in this he is absolutely on the button.

It amply illustrates a frequent topic of Malcolm's own thoughts: the double-standards applied to those who pass between the two main islands of our home archipelago.
  • Hence, Malcolm's delight that so many liberal cyberspatial voices have sided with Mrs Gatland. She has shown levels of personal honour not generally at large among Tory councillors.
  • Hence, too, the unaccustomed reticence on the matter from one and all of the "usual suspects" (Dale, Montgomerie, Staines) in the Tory blogosphere.
  • Hence, thirdly, the pathos behind this paragraph in the Times piece:
After a sleepless Monday night she contacted the Tory council leader. She admitted that she had been a member of the IRA and offered her resignation. An hour later he called back and accepted. “I am disappointed in the way the local party acted but I do understand it was a great shock to them,” Mrs Gatland said. “Perhaps I should have said, ‘Here is the book, this is what I did, make up your own minds’. They should not have reacted so quickly but I can understand they were worried about their reputation.”
Meanwhile, in Belfast

Diddy Dave Cameron is wowing all of the 700-strong rump of the Ulster Unionist Party with belly-rubs and warm words.

This is either a very trivial event, little more than a photo-op, or it is (for good or ill) a new departure. Fortunately, nobody is paying Malcolm to make predictions.

Except ...

Yesterday’s Irish Times had a summative piece by Gerry Moriarty (who, as their Northern Editor, is paid on the above basis):
Cameron's alliance proposal for UUP raises many questions
The alleged aim being trailed here is the creation of
a new, non-sectarian political dynamic in Northern politics.
In other words, another political whistle-in-the-wind to go the same way as the SDLP and Alliance Parties. The "non-sectarian" middle-ground is becoming a trifle cluttered with relics of previous non-sectarian political dynamics. All of which stumbled, sooner or later, over the inevitable question: are you a Mick non-sectarian political dynamic or a Prod one?

Moriarty has Owen Patterson (Cameron’s representative on earth to this small, six-countied corner of God's own heaven) reported thus:
He isn’t concerned about how [putting up candidates in every constituency] would play with the DUP in the event of both Cameron and Brown needing Robinson’s votes to form a government. He knows it probably would boil down to the highest bidder.
To Malcolm, that may be a fair appraisal of mercenary NI politicos of any shade, but it smacks of cynicism of an advanced kind. It ignores, for two examples, the DUP’s self-serving ability to play the long game and see beyond the next bunker:
  • Putting up a Tory-UUP candidate in two particular constituencies (South Belfast and Fermanagh-South Tyrone) ensures that the DUP will be also be on the ballot paper, splitting the unionist-Prod vote (which, of itself, belies any claim to be "non-sectarian").
  • And, in the context of any hypothetically-hung parliament, everyone -- especially in this case, the DUP -- is looking at and calculating for a re-run election within 12-18 months.
The very best outcome that the UUP-Conservatives can hope for by 2009 or 2010 is to retain the seat held by Lady Hermon, of whom Moriarty says:
what with Lady Hermon and others in the party such as Michael and Chris McGimpsey and Fred Cobain disposed towards British Labour[, ... t]here are concerns that this could play into the hands of the DUP.
Wider ramifications?

Meanwhile, hush-a-while. On one sound-track we have Cameron's cri de coeur that
He insisted he had never been a “little Englander” and wanted to build Conservatism across the UK.

“I passionately believe in the Union and the future of the whole United Kingdom," he said.
Ouch! That reference to "little Englander" comes from the plummy mouth of an architypical English, nay Notting Hill set, politician. It is perilous stuff.

Malcolm wonders if, on the other channel, he can detect the smothered sniggers of the self-basting Salmond, and the sucking of teeth behind the pursed lips of Annabel Goldie. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

yourcousin said...

Being that a local education activist was the one to blow her cover I don't think that the threat on her life could have been that serious. Secondly, there are plenty of people who are "decent enough beneath it all" who were caught up in the Troubles in one way or another. Most of them in nationalist communities across NI and the archipelago. I wish Myers would grant them all that much. Though he probably feels they need to spill the beans to British Intelligence and cut a book deal first. But isn't just like a Tory, it doesn't matter what you do as long as you apologize for it and make some money in the process.

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