By Brian Feeney (for the Irish News)
Could it possibly be that at last our beautifully maintained proconsul has been outed for the political opportunist he is? New Labour’s bete noire The Sun, the paper Tony and his cronies have worked so hard to keep onside and from which they seem to take their knee-jerk policies on crime, finally lost patience and got stuck into our part-time part-timer.
In typically restrained Sun style it described him, among other things, as “cheap, irresponsible, perma-tanned”. The Sun wasn’t alone. The Daily Torygraph had previously taken a whack at him, deriding his vanity and referring to him as “orange-tinted”. Presumably that wasn’t a reference to his appeasement of the DUP since he arrived here on his first weekly shuttle in May 2005. Oh yes, the paper also called his utterances “vapid”. None of that news here.
The reason for these bucketfuls of manure emptied over the carefully coiffed head of our very important part-time proconsul? Simple - his increasingly desperate attempts to position himself front and centre in the deputy leader stakes in the Labour government as Blair’s day of departure looms ever closer. God help him. Did he not get the message when he was relegated to Ultima Thule with a double dunt to Wales and this god-forsaken graveyard for any British politician’s ambition?
Does he not see the downward trajectory of his career as he spiralled from Leader of the House to the Celtic fringes?
He sparked the anger of The Daily Torygraph by suggesting that bonuses paid to City traders should be capped or taxed or else a substantial proportion given to charity. Well, at least that got him on the front pages in Britain, not easy when you’re permanently flying between Cardiff, London and here.
What incensed The Sun was the rumour that he was thinking of laying a wreath or making some gesture of apology for the killings British forces perpetrated in Croke Park in 1920. “Croke Joke”, the paper called it - “a crass publicity stunt”. It said Downing Street had hit the idea on the head. Well, again it got him the front pages, this time without actually doing anything.
Apologies seem to be our proconsul’s latest cheapo wheeze, especially for events long ago for which he has no responsibility. Most laughable and incredible was his “apology” in the United States for Northern Ireland’s involvement in the slave trade. As Newton Emerson pointed out in this paper, Norn Iron didn’t exist at the time of the slave trade and, as historians hastened to protest, Belfast was always opposed to the slave trade.
As a matter of fact Ireland’s involvement with the slave trade was in providing slaves. In the 1650s Cromwell sent thousands of Irish men and women to Barbados, Montserrat, St Kitts and Antigua. The minimum figure was 12,000. Others put it as high as 50,000. The Irish, not surprisingly, proved to be lousy slaves in the Tropics with an inconsiderate habit of dying quickly from malaria. The English sugar planters turned to our proconsul’s friends the black slaves in the 18th century.
Any chance of our slippy, orange-tinted, opportunist apologising to the Irish for England’s experiments in white slavery on one of his flying visits or perhaps when he’s in Croker?
Don’t hold your breath.
All the same, you might have expected someone born in Nairobi to know something about colonialism.
Or, on the other hand, perhaps not.
Still, he’s not stupid. You’ll notice he craftily offered his meaningless, cynical apology on behalf of Wales and Norn Iron. He knew he was skating on thin ice because black groups in Britain are trying to organise a claim for compensation from companies they believe benefited from slavery.
So he didn’t apologise on behalf of the government.
He says he’s going to Croke to “back the boys from Ulster playing in the game”.
How silly. What a typically fatuous remark. If Rory Best gets a strike against the head will our proconsul stop cheering until the ball reaches Trimble?
If Trimble isn’t playing, then what? Anyway, how do you cheer through clenched rear molars?
No. If his recent run of play is anything to go by, our proconsul is only scheming how to use the match to advance his political ambitions.