Irish Republican News · February 27, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Keep smiling through the media alchemy

By Jude Collins (for Daily Ireland)

OK, it’s been tough. The headlines over the past week have been all thunder clouds and promises that the sky is about to fall. But a few Ealing comedy moments have peeped through as well.

The first was that #50,000 they got hidden in the toilets at Newforge Country Club. These were the first notes from the bank raid to be found by the PSNI. To hide them, those responsible must have had time to remove the tiles, insert the notes and then carefully replace the tiles - an hour’s work at least. So the question is this: how long do the RUC/PSNI patrons of this Country Club normally spend in the toilet cubicle without provoking comment? And did nobody ask what were those funny scraping sounds coming from in there?

The second light relief moment came when a PSNI spokesperson solemnly announced that “Initial checks would suggest that this incident is a effort to distract the police investigating the Northern Bank robbery”. Whoa, Dobbin. Am I hearing alright? The peelers haven’t unearthed as much as a five pee piece, now they discover #50,000 from the bank raid, and they conclude it’s a distraction? More Keystone Kops than Ealing, I’d say.

And a third chuckle - if a slightly bleak one - came with the media’s response to the cops’ claim that the Newforge money had been put there by republicans to stitch them up. Within hours, the media began reporting the PSNI claim as FACT. Now that’s what I call handy - news people who are willing to turn the dross of your opinion into the gold of fact. A kind of media alchemy.

So I’d like all news reporters on the island to listen carefully now. Because my initial checks suggest that the Northern Bank raid was carried out by a British Army undercover unit in co-ordination with the PSNI, that the money found in the Newforge Club is part of a PSNI pay-off, and the money found in Cork was put there by the Brits to act as a distraction. Oh, and a number of senior unionists serve on the supreme council of the UDA. What evidence can I produce for these claims? Well, none, of course. And your point is...? The final chuckle of the week was a sort of a personal epiphany that came to me in the small hours of Tuesday morning. I’d been thinking, as I often do, of Justice Minister Michael McDowell, because after my repeatedly describing him in this column as unsmiling, what does he do in Cork, where he’s rushed to congratulate the Garda Siochana on their success in locating lotsamoney? Why he smiles. A full frontal smile so wide it nearly met at the back of his neck.

Gerry Adams described Mr McDowell’s Cork performance as ‘unholy glee’ but that’s unfair. Booting your opponent when he’s on the floor is an important part of politics. That’s what Mitchel McLaughlin was doing a week or so ago when he said Mark Durkan’s attack on Sinn Féin felt like an attack by a dead sheep (ooouuuuch). And Fine Gael were trying to do it to Aengus O Snodaigh with their calls for his resignation, because some guys convicted of IRA activities had his posters in their car. Kicking in the kidneys is what politicians do, and McDowell was only following his nature.

But seeing the Justice Minister in Cork had started an itch in my brain. Who was it he reminded me of? The answer crouched in a corner and wouldn’t come out.

Until four o’clock on Tuesday morning when I suddenly wakened and sat up in bed and said two words.

“Maggie Thatcher!”

It was blindingly obvious. Grow the blond hair longer, remove the glasses, add a pearl necklace, touch of lipstick: it’s Lady Hacksaw herself. As for the Thatcher fixed stare and how-dare-you-disagree-with-me-you-slug tone - sure Michael has that to a T already. Truly this is the Son of Maggie.

So you see, despite the RTE canary chorus, there is brightness amid the supposed gloom. Tommy Gorman may come on for the umpteenth time to tell us that things are Disastrous for republicans, that they are Calamitous, that Sinn Féin are In Denial, that they are In Freefall. But after he’s finished, there still won’t be a scrap of supporting evidence, and the canary chorus still won’t stop people giving a rather different verdict in the Meath by-election in March and the Westminster general election in May.

While we’re waiting for those two red letter days, why don’t you take a break and come to the No Alibis Bookstore on Botanic Avenue, Belfast at 6.30 this evening? There’s free wine, I’ll be signing copies of my new novel ‘Leave of Absence’, and if enough people buy it, I’ll be able to stop robbing banks.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News