The State of the Union


From where I sit this Saturday morning the world is a dark, foreboding and sinister place and the union is in some state. Can the news get any worse, I ask you? Johnny and John expelled from the Boy Scouts. Edwina and that other Johnny doing steamy cartwheels in their birthday suits. And the terrifying transmogrification of Jeffrey Donaldson into Attila the Hun!

Where to begin?

Well, last week our First Minister joined the No Camp and thought that that was that, except it wasn’t. By way of thanks, Jeffrey Donaldson’s Lagan Valley constituency association ditched Trimble’s key ally and the party’s chief whip, Ivan Davis MLA, and nominated anti-Agreement candidates at its convention. Jeffrey’s behaviour got up the nose of Trimble’s only nationalist friend in the world, Deputy First Minister, Mark Durkan, who likened Jeffrey to Attila the Hun.

Attila the Hun had a large head, a swarthy complexion, small, deep-seated eyes, a flat nose, a few hairs in the place of a beard, broad shoulders, and a short square body. He had a custom of fiercely rolling his eyes, as if he wished to enjoy the terror which he inspired. He delighted in war, killed his own brother, was a cannibal, and ate two of his sons, Erp and Eitil, whom he thought were T-bones, served up to him by a vengeful wife.

He also rode to work bareback on a horse, waving a bloody sword and with his tongue sticking out.

This is hardly the cuddly Jeffrey we know and love and who is going to bring about the end of the union quicker than we thought. No, the closest thing to Durkan’s description is a coke-headed Brigadier in the Inner Council of the UDA. People with gold rings in either ear, who wear their baseball hats back to front when they haven’t been shovelled into suits a corpse wouldn’t be seen alive in. People who don’t eat but shoot their sons.

But to change the subject.

There are people called China watchers who follow in great detail the trends within the communist party leadership in Beijing. Similarly, there are those who closely follow what is going on in loyalist paramilitary organisations and are absolute authorities on the key players. I am not talking about the Special Branch which employs most of the key players, but people in pubs, clubs, taxis, shopping queues and at bingo, the length and breadth of the Falls Road, who know - or seem to know - what Jim Gray has for his breakfast, or the colour of Johnny Adair’s wallpaper or what’s going to happen next now that Andre Shoukri has been arrested. Soap talk, except it’s a bit like ‘Bullets Over Brookside’.

It fairly bores me - who’s who and what’s what. I prefer the ironies.

UTV’s ‘Insight’ did a programme on Johnny Adair the other night. Johnny was visibly sad and hurt at being put out of the UDA. The UDA might be a proscribed organisation but you would be more quickly charged with membership of the Credit Union. Anyway, it turns out that - apart from the small matter of Johnny’s megalomania - the Inner Council was angry that Johnny (as part of his attempt to become Minister of Tailoring in the power-sharing Executive) had sent John White to meet with Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Alex Maskey. Now, that’s what I call ironic! John’s Plastic Ono Band singing, ‘Give Peace A Chance’.

Finally, to the confession that has shaken the nation across the water. Edwina Currie has had many visitors in her day but I would like to lay claim to the fact that I was her nine thousandth seven hundredth and sixth. Having said that, her website is crap; like her novels. She has just published some diaries and has revealed that she had an affair with John Major from 1984 to 1988 - years, thank God, during which leading republicans were the subject of exclusion orders from Britain and thus beyond the temptress’s nails. Her novel, ‘Chasing Men’ (aka ‘…Future PMs’) was published in 2000 and was in the best seller list for five weeks.

Lord Jeffrey Archer, the party-going parolee, was the deputy chair of the Conservative Party at the time of the affair. Commenting on Edwina’s confession, Archer’s wife, Mary, said that she couldn’t understand “the temporary lapse in John Major’s taste.” Now, that’s what I call a good cut and thrust!

This, of course, gives me an excuse to finish on excerpts from the best diary ever published by a Tory, that of the late rake, Alan Clark MP, who once spoke at the despatch box completely drunk. In one diary he speculates on Thatcher’s reaction to the death of Ian Gow at the hands of the IRA: “She wept at the first casualties in the Falklands. I wonder if she did today? Because Ian loved her, actually loved, I mean, in every sense but the physical. And then in the end, as lovers do (particularly that kind), he got on her nerves, and she was off-hand with him. He played his last beseeching card: ‘I will have to resign.’ ‘Go ahead, then.’ (I foreshorten the exchange, of course) - and that was it.”

On Ireland Clark wrote: “I am confirmed in my opinion that it is hopeless here. All we can do is arm the Orangemen - to the teeth - and get out. This would give also the not slight advantage that, at a stroke, Infantry ‘overstretch’ is eliminated.”

Yes, they certainly armed the loyalists to the teeth, colluded in the killings of hundreds of uninvolved Catholics, created drug barons who established territories and now fight turf wars and now wreak havoc on leaderless working class Protestants, as Jeffrey rides out, backwards, on his horse away from the golden treasury of the union…

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison