Jude Collins worked for thirty years as a lecturer at the Ulster University/Ulster Polytechnic. Before that, he was a high school English teacher in Derry, Dublin, Edmonton and Winnipeg (Canada).
He is the author of eight books, including Booing the Bishop and other stories and Martin McGuinness: The man I knew. He has been a weekly columnist for The Irish News, Daily Ireland and currently writes for The Andersonstown News.
He has broadcast on TV and radio for the BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Press TV and RTÉ. For the past thirteen years he has written a daily column on his blogsite www.judecollins.com
PAGE Turner (RTÉ ONE) is the latest effort to take a book-club meeting and translate it on to the TV screen. Compared to a real-life book-club, the television version is at one remove from reality; on the other hand TV allows you to sit on the sidelines and watch/listen, without the worry that you’ll be expected to come up with an insightful comment.
NIMBYISM is a sad affliction, and one that is more common than most of us would like to admit. The letters are, of course, an acronym for Not In My Back Yard, and usually refers to something like the building of an incinerator which is resisted by the local people. We had a quite good example of it in the Ballymun area of Dublin last week. There are several hundred immigrants living in an hotel in Ballymun, and a number of local people mounted a protest outside the hotel, waving placards and chanting for the immigrants to go home, or at least clear away from Ballymun. It’s an old pattern: Ireland in general is keen to extend céad míle fáilte to refugees, but that’s on the assumption that they’ll settle somewhere far from us. NIMBYISM is a many-headed monster. Michael D Higgins is a popular president who has spoken in protest against the Iraq war, and in support of victims of harsh regimes in Chile and Cambodia. He has been rather quieter about the partition of his country and the 50 years of misrule in the North. Michael D is far from alone in suffering from NIMBYITIS. Politicians – American, British, Irish – have for many years urged Irish republicans to leave the path of violence and look to attain their goals using exclusively peaceful means. And yet these same politicians are loud in their support of armed Ukrainian resistance to Russian invaders, and vie with each other in sending weaponry to support the gallant fighting men of Ukraine.
THE TOMMY TIERNAN SHOW (RTÉ ONE) has become one of the most popular shows on RTÉ. Ex-comedian Tiernan interviews sight unseen – that is, he doesn’t know who’s going to come in and sit on the chair opposite him.
IS Prince Harry a slow learner? In the interminable television interview with Tom Bradby on ITV last Sunday, his core gripe against some members of the Royals was that they were racist. Did he never talk to his grandpapa, the man who joked with English students in China that they’d need to avoid staying there too long or they’d become ‘slitty-eyed’?
WELL, here we are, in a spanking New Year. Time to consign the past to the dustbin of history, time to focus on the future. Right? Well, actually, No.
AS a dedicated TV reviewer, I resisted the temptation to celebrate the end of 2022 in a public place drinking and generally out of my head. Instead, I stayed indoors, crouched over the telly.
THE year 2022 AD – will we sigh nostalgically over the past twelve months or shake our fists and mutter “Good bloody riddance”? Maybe both.
IT may be the season to be jolly, but for many, strands of sadness run through Christmas.
SO it seems Aidan McAnespie’s family has got justice at last. Late last month, Belfast crown court ruled that David Holden, now 53, showed ‘gross negligence’ when, as a British soldier, he shot dead Aidan McAnespie in 1988. Holden said his finger slipped on the trigger.
ARE Micheál Martin and some Dublin journalists joined at the hip? Certainly at times they appear to be trotting in unison along the same well-trodden political path.
LEO Varadkar went all soft and best-mates when he mentioned Fianna Fáil’s leader in his FG Ard Fheis speech. “Let’s acknowledge tonight that our Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been a good one,” he said. “Through difficult circumstances, including the later stages of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, he has been a voice for decency, kindness and for common sense. We thank him.”
To say that we should prepare for a new Ireland in advance of a border poll is to state the bleedin’ obvious. Those who claim it would cause division are like a family which knows it will probably move to a new home fifty miles down the road soon, but never mention the move in case it might upset the children.
AS ever on Remembrance Sunday, the hour was approaching when I should have rise. from my desk and join the rest of the UK in a minute’s silence. Should have. Remembrance Day is when British people commemorate/ honour the contribution of British and Commonwealth servicemen and women in the two World Wars and other conflicts. People wear blood-red poppies as a symbol of their commitment to Remembrance Sunday. When you commemorate someone, you recall and respect them. And thank them. In London on Remembrance Sunday there was a two-minute silence at the Whitehall Cenotaph, followed by The Nation’s Thank You Procession.So what conflicts does this remembering and respecting and thanking mark? Well, World War One, World War Two and any other conflicts in which the British armed forces were engaged in the last century, this century, and as far back as you care to go. During World War One, British armed forces executed 305 of their own soldiers because they were judged to have deserted or displayed cowardice. Ten years before the outbreak of World War One, in 1904, British armed forces killed hundreds of Tibetans. They used machine guns, in what is remembered (certainly in Tibet) as the Chumik Shenko massacre. In Jallianwala Bagh/ Amritsar, British troops in 1919 fired into a crowd and over 1,000 Indians were killed. Reginald Dyer, who ordered the killing, was feted in Britain as a hero, and given what would be £1 million in today’s money. That event is known as the Amritsar Massacre. Two days after that massacre, the RAF were sent to bomb and machine-gun protestors in Gujranwala. More than a dozen people were killed. That is known as the Shaji massacre. In 1925, in China, 52 worker and student demonstrators were fired on and killed in Guangzhou. By – yep – British armed forces. And then we had the First World War itself (‘The war to end wars’), an ocean of blood-letting in the cause of... what? Small nations? Freedom? Civilisation? I think not. Thousands of young Irishmen sacrificed their lives for the lie that after the war, Ireland would be granted Home Rule. None of this is to deny the British people the right to commemorate their war dead. The great majority of countries do that. But it would be to fly in the face of history to act as though the British Empire and its armed forces had always acted honourably. Physical degradation of the native people in Kenya, to take one instance, was appalling. Concentration camps were established, native people rounded up, and over a million of them suffered physical and/or sexual abuse. In India, the native people of Bengal were forced by the conquering British to work day and night to survive. Many didn’t: it’s reckoned that over two centuries, twelve famines occurred there and some sixty million people may have died. Which makes even An Gorta Mór seem small. None of this suffering would have been possible without the might of British armed forces. The British Empire, which laid claim to other people’s land all over the globe, couldn’t have come into being without the British armed forces. So to ask the people of Chumik Shenko or Amritsar or Gujranwala or Guangzhou or Kenya to commemorate the British armed forces would be like... Well, like asking Irish people to commemorate the Black and Tans or the Parachute Regiment or other British regiments which over the centuries shed Irish blood. When the First World War began in 1914, Britain was an empire. In his novel Burmese Days, George Orwell has one of his characters explain what colonialism involves: It means coming to other countries, killing people and stealing their stuff, he says. On a massive scale, that’s what Britain did in North America, in Australia, in India, in New Zealand, and across the globe. And to borrow a phrase, the cutting edge that made the seizure of these places possible was the British armed forces. So no, you won’t see me observing the two-minute silence and you won’t see me wearing a poppy. Except it’s a white one, maybe, and says in large letters “MIGHT IS NOT RIGHT.”
THESE days, nationalists and republicans walk with a bounce in their step. There was that seminal meeting of civic nationalism in the Waterfront Hall in 2019 which drew around 1500. There was that event in the 3 Arena in Dublin this year, which drew some 5000. And now there is an event scheduled in the Ulster Hall at which, among others, Professor Colin Harvey will speak . The Ulster Hall holds 1,000 people and has been fully booked out for weeks. Which may be sweet music to nationalist ears, but let’s not lose the run of ourselves. While the great majority of those attending these gatherings are joined in their wish for a reunited Ireland, there are among them those who may have one eye on Ireland’s Future but the other on their own political fate in coming years. Think about it. The Dublin coalition government has had some feisty Dáil exchanges with Sinn Féin, and there is a fear within Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that in the next election Sinn Féin will steam-roller its way to government. What to do? It’s a tough one. A major disadvantage for southern parties other than Sinn Féin is that they have for decades worked to keep Sinn Féin and the North’s Troubles in the North. Every media outlet had the same message: North of the border is bandit country; our job is to build dykes and ensure nothing seeps into the South, including the voices of Sinn Féin party members. Now, however, nearly 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement, it’s clear that the North and Northern voices have seeped into the consciousness of political parties in the south. One example: Fianna Fáil. The present Taoiseach has shown repeated sympathy for the views of Northern unionists and has done his best to damp down his party’s republican tendencies. Not really a complete success: Jim O’Callaghan isn’t the only party member who believes Fianna Fail should be openly working for a united Ireland. In fact, the notion of a reunited Ireland will play a major part in who succeeds Micheál Martin. And when. Likewise Fine Gael. The party which fought a civil war in support of accepting partition is now doing an energetic swivel. Think back a few years. Remember Leo Varadkar promising Northern nationalists that they would “never again be left behind”? And Fine Gael was firm in its insistence that there would be no return to a land border in Ireland in the EU-UK discussions. Neale Richmond, the Fine Gael TD for Dublin-Rathdown, was frequently sent out to speak on EU matters. He is now doing a similar job on the matter of a reunited Ireland. Neale, as it happens is a member of the Church of Ireland. A familiar face on our screens for some years now has been that of Heather Humphries. She is a Fine Gael TD for Cavan-Monaghan and Minister for Social Protection. Her father is a member of the Orange Order and her grandfather signed the Ulster Covenant. Heather is a Presbyterian. One of the speakers at the Ireland’s Future event in the Ulster Hall later this month will be a woman called Lorraine Hall. She is a Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire councillor and has become, along with Neale Richmond, a spokesperson for Fine Gael on united Ireland matters. Her great-grandfather was a Cavan farmer and a Presbyterian who signed – yep, you guessed it, Virginia – the Ulster Covenant. Her great-grandfather did so because he feared a united Ireland; those fears, Lorraine says, were unfounded. As it happens Lorraine is a second cousin of Heather Humphries, and some believe she’s being readied to join Heather in the Dail. Something of a pattern emerging here, wouldn’t you say? Fine Gael are intent on presenting themselves as a party which welcomes everyone, including Protestants, and is happy to use their talents. Remember Ian Marshall, the unionist and former President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, whom Leo appointed to the Dail? Fine Gael are determined that, if the wave of the future is going to be a united Ireland, they’re going to surfing that wave alongside Sinn Féin. I have a funny feeling that, before he leaves office of Taoiseach in two years’ time, Leo Varadkar will have set up a Citizens’ Assembly to map out the detail of any future reunited Ireland. Fine Gael, a united Ireland party. Whodathunk it?
IT depends on who you ask. If you aim your question at the average republican, they’ll probably say the DUP are refusing to help form an Executive because the very thought of working as Deputy First Minister alongside a Sinn Féin First Minister would bring them out in hives.