Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ógra Fianna Fáil Disgrace Themselves Over Albert Reynolds

The damage their forebears have done to their party’s past doesn’t seem quite enough for the up-and-coming generation of Fianna Fáil. They seem quite determined to destroy their party’s future as well.

Lisa Chambers’ sinking of the stiletto into the increasingly bloody back of Bertie Ahern on Morning Ireland during the week was fair game. The old rogue probably even admired it, in a kind of a way – administering the final kick to the dying is one of the great political arts. Miss Chambers is sure to go far.

But Ógra Fianna Fáil’s decision to call for the grey head of Albert Reynolds suggests that they know nothing about the history of the country that they aspire to lead one day. They are a disgrace.

Membership of Ógra Fianna Fáil is for people aged twenty-five and under. This means the oldest possible member of Ógra Fianna Fáil was born in 1987.

1987 was a memorable year in Ireland. Nine people were killed in Loughgall in May of that year. Twelve died, and over sixty were injured, in the Remembrance Day bombing at Enniskillen. Welcome to Ireland, future Ógra member.

You’re one year old in 1988. You can wriggle, and crawl, and your parents are so proud of you. Meanwhile, the Gibraltar Three are shot by the SAS and Michael Stone goes on the rampage at one of the funerals. Two off-duty British soldiers take a wrong turn down a street in Belfast – they die horrible deaths at the hands of the mob.

Two years old in 1989. You can put two or three words together, you can almost climb stairs, you’ve been able to walk for ages. In the outside world, Pat Finucane is murdered by the UDA and eleven British army bandsmen are murdered in their barracks in Kent.

1990, you’re three years old and you can’t stop asking questions. The IRA bomb the City of London.
1991 – you are freed from the nappy’s cruel shackle. The IRA bomb Downing Street itself.
1992, you can dress yourself. The IRA blow up eight men for “collaboration.”
1993 – you’re a big man now at the age of six. Other children make the news when Warrington is bombed – Jonathan Ball, three years younger than you, and Tim Parry, six years older, are both killed. Dead. Never coming back.

And in 1994, the year of your seventh birthday, when you are old enough to talk and dress and be sent to the shops for bag of Tayto, all that killing ends. And it ended thanks to Albert Reynolds, whose head you will call for on Friday in an attempt to look holier than – whom, exactly?

Peace in the North had many fathers, of course. A confluence of events was necessary. But without the strong relationship between Albert Reynolds and John Major, it never would have happened. And the fact it broke down when the Reynolds Government fell – because the current Minister for Education demanded a head – shows just how big an achievement peace was in the first place.

Major’s and Reynolds’ achievement isn’t remembered as much because both Reynolds’ and Major’s careers were seen to end in failure and Bertie and Blair had better spin doctors – or had up until last week, anyway.

This neglect of Major and Reynolds does both men a grave disservice. They saved a lot of lives. That should count for more than knocking a penny off the income tax or building a new bridge on the river.

Reynolds was never taken seriously here. The country and western Taoiseach. A one-sheet man. A deal-maker. Running a country isn’t the same as running a dancehall in Rooskey, as Fintan O’Toole once sneered. Hard to imagine a dancehall in Rooskey running up this country’s current level of debt but hey – what would I know?

If anyone doubts Reynolds’ role in the peace process, read Fergus Finlay’s book. Finlay despises Fianna Fáil even more than Ógra Fianna Fáil seem to do, but he gives full credit to Reynolds for his achievements in the North.

Albert Reynolds’ closed an eight-hundred-year old wound. Eight hundred years of blood and death and strife and he ended it by sitting at a table and hacking out a deal, like professional politicians are meant to be able to do.

The Ógra members are too young to remember it, of course, but maybe if they read some books instead of throwing shapes they might find something out about the country they live in. Tim Pat Coogan on the Troubles. Seán Duignan’s memoir. Finlay’s memoir. Maybe they’d learn something before making complete and utter eejits of themselves.

This is Father Alec Reid, one of the silent angels of the peace, giving the Last Rites one of those British soldiers whose car was in the wrong place at the wrong time in 1988. This is what Ireland was like. And because of Albert Reynolds, it hasn’t been like that for twenty years.

If the Albert Reynolds motion of expulsion is the best Ógra Fianna Fáil has to offer, they’re not fit to change the kitty litter in one of Reynolds’s pet food factories. God forgive them, for they are far too stupid to know what they do.