THE Northern Ireland Office has decided that the late poet Seamus Heaney is to be the face of its programme of events to mark the 100th anniversary of partition. Him and Mary Peters (the Golden Girl of Are Wee Country who’s actually a Scouser).
The use of Heaney’s portrait in the literature released at the launch of the programme (right) caused a stir, not least because the poet was not a man in whom unionists seemed terribly interested while he was alive. Indeed, when he died in 2013 not a single unionist politician attended the funeral of the Nobel Prize winner, which at the time was widely viewed not merely as a lack of interest, but as a decided snub.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood signalled his displeasure by tweeting a pithy response in the forme of a couple of famous Heaney lines: “Be advised, my passport’s green/No glass of ours was ever raised to toast the queen.”
For the sake of full disclosure, Colum might have added in brackets that he himself swore an oath to the queen when he entered the House of Commons, but anyway...
Loyal Ulster was mightily displeased by Colum’s intervention. UUP leader Steve Aiken tweeted a picture of Heaney shaking hands with the queen in 2011and added: “Despite colour of passport I do think Seamus did raise a glass to the queen... far better days in Irish/UK relations. Let’s get back to them.” Unfortunately, while Heaney meeting the queen and shaking her hand obviously impressed Steve and the party at the time, it didn’t impress them enough to pay their respects two years later.
DUP leader Arlene Foster, meanwhile, tweeted: “Colum should reflect on what the late Seamus Mallon said. ‘We have two stark and clear choices. We can live together in generosity and compassion or we can continue to die in bitter disharmony.’ Let’s choose generosity.”
Yes, you read that right. The leader of the DUP is now lecturing the leader of the SDLP on generosity and compassion. Squinter asked: “Alexa, point me in the direction of someone displaying a complete lack of self-awareness” and Arlene’s tweet came up.
The First Minister’s generosity and compassion were famously on show when she said in 2017 of the push for an Irish Language Act: “If you keep feeding a crocodile it will come back for more.” The resulting furore energised republican and nationalists voters to such an extent that in the next election unionists lost their majority for the first time.
Gregory Campbell remains gloriously undisciplined for his generous and compassionate “curry my yoghurt” remarks on the Irish language in 2014 and, indeed, was so empowered by the party’s indifference to his now notorious outburst, he followed it up with a promise that he would treat a Sinn Féin position paper during talks as “toilet paper”.
At the weekend, Arlene’s colleague on Newry, Mourne and Down Council, Glynn Hanna, extended generosity and compassion to the US President-Elect when he said he would oppose a plan by Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance to invite Joe Biden to the borough to celebrate his family links with County Down.
Trump has pardoned four Blackwater mercenaries jailed for the slaughter of 17 innocents in the Nisour Square Massacre. Just my occasional reminder that if you backed the atrocity that was the Iraq invasion you have zero authority to lecture anyone on here about violence.— Squinter (@squinteratn) December 23, 2020
The DUP councillor described Mr Biden as a “divisive character”. And Squinter has to admit that Glynn knows a bit about divisive politics, as he caused a storm in the council chamber in 2016 when he remarked during a debate on the EU: “A lot of people in the courts in Newry seem to be from an eastern European origin.”
Anyway, with apologies to Seamus Heaney, here’s a couple of poems about Arlene and Gregory. Well, Limericks, actually, but sure...
After meeting the DUP leader,
A rather perceptive mind-reader
Said ‘She’s lots of compassion
And keeps up with fashion,
But soon her own party won’t need ’er.’
An angry young fellow called Greg,
Who fancied himself as a geg,
Talked of yoghurt and curry
And other such slurry
Then farted an Ulster-Scotch egg.
Songs in a rather different key of Christmas
Oh, dear. A couple of mulled wines and a brandy and Bailey’s and the urge to sing is strong