Our old and esteemed friend, Finlay Spratt, Chairman of the
Prison Officers Association in the Six Counties, has caught
everyone by surprise with the vehemence with which he is
defending his highly skilled members' interests.
But of course, for screws, the issue on which he is campaigning
is the most important thing in the whole wide world to them -
Many of them face redundancy and their aptitude for other work is
not highly rated, nor is their appetite for hard work, so they
are looking for as much lolly as they can possibly get. The deal
on the table at the minute is worth up to £230,000 for some of
Finlay's mates. And still he isn't satisfied.
He made the extraordinary pledge this week that he is prepared to
``go to jail to get justice for my colleagues''. Isn't that what
screws are supposed to do?
I received a copy of Hansard this week which deals with a lively
debate in the British House of Lords about the upgrading of the
Derry-Strabane-Ballygawley road, although they didn't say Derry,
The debate was begun by the noble Duke of Abercorn who told the
assembled snoring peers that he is President of Strabane Chamber
of Commerce and then, mysteriously, that his family owns a
disused quarry in County Tyrone ``where a local quarrymaster pays
a modest rent in order to ensure that the quarry remains closed''.
There followed a remarkably lucid case for upgrading the road
before the noble Earl of Carlisle got to his feet.
After praising his oul mucker the Duke to the high heavens (this
stuff has to be seen to be believed) he said ominously,''I declare
an interest''. Another disused quarry, perhaps? Oh, no.
``Twenty six years ago last month,'' he said, ``I was serving as a
soldier in Northern Ireland. I was in a civilian car bought
locally. I was undertaking the kind of job where the number
plates needed to be changed every two to three months. I was
driving quite slowly, at about 40mph, from Omagh to Ballygawley.
Suddenly there was a bump. I lost control of the car. It slewed
over to the right and a car coming in the opposite direction
crashed into me. Fortunately, no-one was killed. Given the nature
of my duties, it would have been ironic had I been wiped out by a
car and not a terrorist.''
No, my Lord, not ironic. Try ``a source of dark glee to many
Visitors to Dublin Sinn Féin's office on Wednesday afternoon were
taken aback. Behind the locked door loud music thumped out its
heavy beat and chinks of flashing lights escaped into the gloomy
A small, puzzled group gathered. Someone went to fetch a key. The
crowd grew bigger. Eventually the door was opened to reveal three
female members of Sinn Féin Youth posing as the kids from Fame,
dancing among the filing cabinets and posters as makeshift disco
lights flashed around the dark office.
Thecrowd stared for a moment, then the door was gently closed and
the older Shinners quietly went back to their work.
Was it Emma Goldman who said, ``If I can't dance, I don't want to
be part of your revolution''?