Irish Republican News · April 7, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Proconsul’s future impossible to predict

By Brian Feeney (for the Irish News)

Well the tapes are up and they’re off. It’s a bit of a kangaroo start though, with a jump, then a jerk until the Pope’s funeral is out of the way. A full gallop is considered unseemly until next week. That’s in Britain of course. It will be another couple of weeks before our lot get their acts together. No hurry. After all, it’s the same old show, well rehearsed.

Meanwhile none of the political stuff dominating British television and radio is relevant here. Nothing voters do here has the slightest effect on anything in Britain and naturally British voters couldn’t care less what happens here. The only circumstances in which that might change is if the wretched, distrusted, spinning Blair were to win with a majority of less than 40, which is presumably what all unionists fervently pray for.

One side effect of the interrupted start to the campaign is that it gives more time for retiring MPs to say their final farewells. John Hume, Seamus Mallon and Martin Smyth are quitting the scene this week. You might wish for others to throw in the towel too but no such luck, unless that is, David Trimble and Roy Beggs are knocked out of the ring in May. On present showing Beggs looks a certain loser.

What is impossible to predict is whether we’ll be stuck after the election with the same proconsul and his most unprepossessing set of juniors. You can be sure they’ll all be re-elected because all but one of them have whopping majorities, the proconsul himself holding the 54th safest seat in Westminster with more than a 16,000 majority. On the other hand, you might ask where would Blair move a politician as supine as the current proconsul to?

Well you might be surprised. Jim Callaghan actually promoted his Welsh crony Merlyn Rees to home secretary after he made a complete mess of things here. Not, mind you, that proconsul has made a mess of things. In fact he hasn’t achieved anything nor does he look as though he’s capable of anything except being congenial to everyone here, an achievement in itself. Perhaps that’s why he was sent in the first place? Since Blair allows our local politicos to walk straight past his proconsuls into Number 10 is there any reason to appoint other than unprepossessing people here? Can you name one policy our present incumbent has successfully prosecuted? Can you even remember one decision he took, except to be offside when all hell broke loose at Ardoyne last July?

As for his underlings, they behave like branch managers employed in some multi-national company.

More accurately like district commissioners in some coconut colony tut-tutting at the natives for over-spending and fecklessness and getting themselves photographed wearing hard hats and silly grins at the levers of a JCB they couldn’t even start.

Most dreadful of course is Spellar whose very presence is an affront to any notion of equality and justice in the north, a politician who had the gall to accept a position in charge of criminal justice here after his role in the ministry of defence retaining soldiers convicted of murder here. Can you imagine how long he’d last if the soldiers had shot some kid in Britain? He’ll probably be back. The fact that Blair’s spin doctors don’t make him shave off his beard shows he’s going nowhere in Labour’s scheme of things. He could even be proconsul here which is still nowhere in Labour’s scheme of things as our present man amply demonstrates, amply being the operative word.

And so it will continue. There’s no point moaning about it because it’s what people here vote for. Unionists are quite happy with direct rule because its default position is unionism. For unionists change always means change for the worse. For their part, nationalists are quite happy to vote in increasing numbers for Sinn Féin in the full knowledge that for the foreseeable future no unionist will sit down at a table with SF to cut a deal and that no Irish government will expect them to do so. Whatever the election outcome the two communities here remain further apart than in April 1998.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News