JOHN Taylor – Lord Kilclooney to the villagers and the help – is in familiarly hot water this week. Which is where he likes to spend his leisure time, seemingly, and given the frankly bonkers nature of his social media output, he most likely has a large brandy in his hand as he turns up the jacuzzi with the other.
Cast your mind back to 2017 when Taylor tweeted of Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney after the Fine Gael man said he’d like to see a united Ireland: “Clearly hoping to undermine the Indian.” (The then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s father is Indian.) Around the same time he accused “Irekabd”, “Irekand” and “Southern Urekand” of “scheming” a united Ireland with the EU. Hic. Wha’? Taylor withdrew the “Indian” tweet, claiming he had only used the word as shorthand and had been misunderstood. Some people nodded gravely and accepted his reversal, but the vast majority settled back and waited for the next Alf Garnett moment.
And on Monday it came as he mused after the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris win on a question that was on the lips of exactly zero other people on the planet. “What happens if Biden moves on and the Indian becomes President. Who then becomes Vice President?” And as sure as eggs, the elderly Peer (is there any other kind?) found himself in the middle of a social media storm. Only this time it wasn’t the kind of storm we’re used to here: the one that knocks over your wheelie bin and your bird table. This was a proper Wizard of Oz blow-your-house down, New-York-Times-interest, CNN coverage cyclone.
As ever, when this kind of vile racism seeps out of the loyal Ulster bubble and finds a wider audience, when the bigotry and hate that is part of partition’s DNA are examined by other eyes, Squinter finds himself looking at things differently – being appalled more than he would otherwise be. Now that Taylor’s Kamala Harris racist outburst is news on every continent on the planet, it’s possible to see its shocking inhumanity. When it was ‘just’ the Taoiseach being subjected to the same bile, we kind of looked on and shrugged. Here goes another while male unionist saying what while male unionists actually think. But removed from its micro-context, taken from its natural habitat, the behaviour can be seen for what it is.
Peter Robinson said he trusted Muslims to go to the shops for him and give him the right change. When Sammy Wilson was told by a constituent that it would be a good idea to “get the ethnics out” he replied: “You’re absolutely right, you know.” Ian Paisley shared an anti-Muslim tweet by Katie Hopkins, a woman who makes Tommy Robinson look like Jeremy Corbyn. The party put out a leaflet in South Belfast last year calling for “Local homes for local people.” A DUP councillor referred to a person as “c**n features”. The list goes on and on, and it’s a hell of a long time before we even arrive at homophobia, women’s rights, climate change, sexism and creationism.
The Speaker of the House of Lords, who expressed no interest when the Taoiseach was in the firing line, was on the Kamala Harris thing like a rat up a spout. “This is an offensive way to refer to anyone, let alone a woman who has just made history,” said the former Tory cabinet Minister Lord (Norman) Fowler. “The comment is entirely unacceptable and has no place in British politics. I could not be clearer.”
To which the boul’ John agreed to withdraw the comment, while claiming there was nothing racist about it. “I did not know her name and identified her with the term Indian,” he replied. “Most people understood. Racist NO.” Within minutes the term ‘Racist YES’ was flooding social media.
Interestingly, Taylor’s defence – that he did not know the name – was the same defence he used in the Leo Varadkar case and about which two things occur. 1. Taylor is now a veteran of the internet and he’s asking the Lords Speaker to accept that not only did he not know the name of the vice-president-elect of the United States on the weekend of the vote count but that he didn’t know how to look it up or couldn’t be bothered. 2. Given Taylor’s incendiary history on social media, is it a coincidence that the two people whose names he has forgotten are persons of colour?
Could be, as the mild-mannered janitor in Hong Kong Phooey used to say. But that was a cartoon with a preposterously comical central thesis. Bit like Lord John, come to think of it.
Trump fans on the team
TEAM Trump surely have every right to feel aggrieved, every right to believe that they couldn’t possibly have lost that election. They had Ian Paisley, Sammy Wilson and that other DUP MP that nobody can ever remember supporting him at Westminster, waving a Trump 2020 banner (right) in the Mother of Parliaments®.
How could anyone looking at the bang-up job the DUP did in making the most out of the decisive advantage they held in the Commons in 2017 think the party could ever do other than back a winner? Fair enough, they’re building border posts at Larne to check sweg going between This Here Pravince and Britain. But while there will be a border between loyal Ulster and Britain, Ian, Sammy et al are still British. That make sense? Good.
Funnily enough, it’s almost exactly two years to the day that DUP leader Arlene Foster had her career-defining ‘Ulster at the crossroads’ moment when she spoke out as the first whispers of a sea border began to waft through the corridors of power. “To create a border to that trade [NI-GB] would be catastrophic.” And she tweeted: “UK must leave as one nation. We are keen to see a sensible deal but not one that divides the internal market of the UK. We will not support any arrangements that create a barrier to East-West trade. Anonymous sources lead to nonsense stories.”
And of course she was right in everything she tweeted. Except that the UK is not leaving as one nation and loyal little Ulster has been left behind. Oh, and the bit about not accepting a deal that divides the UK’s internal market – that was boolers. And of course the line about the prospects for East-West trade – the DUP got a kick in the ging-gangs over that one too. And – oops! – how could we forget that anonymous sources in this case led to spot-on stories? So, yes, technically every word of her tweet is a steaming pile of rapidly-cooling wood pellets, but sometimes you have to look beyond the facts.
And how much more bitter and angry must Team Trump be to find that the Mango Man is out on his ear even though Jolene Bunting was rooting for him too? She had a big hoarding built reading ‘Ulster Scots for Trump’ which she put on a trailer and towed around Carrick and Ballymena driving an 18-year-old Renault Laguna with an odd-coloured driver’s door. If you tell Squinter it’s a coincidence that Trump was leading in Pennsylvania when she was happily motoring on the Larne Road and fell behind to Biden when the Renault’s crankshaft packed in, you’re only fooling yourself.
In Northern Ireland here . We love you (most of us do) good luck. God wins pic.twitter.com/E2kpAiH8d0— lizzzy Jay (@LavenderLizzi) November 5, 2020
What is it about upright Christians and the man who’s generally accepted as the biggest liar since Cut the Begs (who famously got thrown out of Hell for lying, according to Squinter’s dear old ma)? What is it about a man who boasts about grabbing women by the privates; who fornicates with porn stars and secretly pays them off; who chickened out of the Vietnam War yet mocks veterans; who supports and courts white supremacists; who is being pursued by so many woman with allegations of sexual misconduct that the number’s not clear – what is it about this guy that Jesus Christ would commend to his earthly flock? How come a hot-gospeller up the country who wouldn’t let his daughter out of the house wearing a dress above the ankle closes his eyes and pleads for the Lord to protect and guide a man who said he’d date his daughter if she wasn’t his daughter?
How come a solemn and sober minister who’s never kissed his missus with the lights on can kneel by his bed in the manse at night before he goes to sleep and pray that Trump gets another four years so he can use the huge resources of the White House to keep the Russian pee-pee tapes out of the public eye?
Such questions might now be said with some accuracy to be pointless as Trump is gone, but what very much remains is the fact that tens of thousands – possibly hundreds of thousands – of ‘good-living’ unionists here threw their lot in with a bloke who’s biggest concern now is not where to golf tomorrow, but which fate awaits him first after he leaves the White House in January: an ankle-tag, the sex-offenders’ register or jail.
Or all three.
At the going down of the sun we will remember Basher
SO, anyway, here’s a UVF wreath at the City Hall Cenotaph on Sunday (right). It poppied, sorry, popped, up on social media in the evening and in the online toing and froing unionist reaction varied from ‘So what?’ at the more loyal side, to ‘Some random d***head no doubt’ on the more moderate side.
But in Monday morning’s News Letter, among a selection of pictures from the small, socially distanced event, the UVF wreath can be clearly seen on the Cenotaph while the blokes in their robes and medals and uniforms went through their remembrancing rituals.
A number of people wondered what the problem was, as the wreath appears every year. Which is kind of surprising. Call him naive, but Squinter has to be honest and say he didn’t think anyone would think it appropriate to have a UVF wreath on Council property, but obviously plenty of people do as it was in place throughout the official ceremony.
All of which brings us back with clanging inevitability to the the question, ‘Ah, but what UVF are we talking about?’ As with the IRA, different people with different agendas have different ideas about the line of succession. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Micheál Martin (or is it the other way round now?) don’t believe the IRA of Martin McGuinness and Bobby Sands was in any way connected to the IRA of Michael Collins and Éamon De Valera (although since neither can bring himself even to mention the IRA during remembrance ceremonies you have to wonder why the distinction is so important to them).
Similarly, many unionists insist that Edward Carson’s UVF has no linear connection to the UVF of Basher Bates, which is why on many orange and purple flags you’ll see the year 1912. A cursory check, however, quickly shows that the majority of those defending UVF 1912 flags have no compunction about standing under UVF flags with pictures of men in balaclavas sledgehammering Catholic doors.
All of which is pretty moot, if the truth be told. Because even if the 1912 UVF – which was formed to oppose the first green shoots of democracy in Ireland – has no connection to the Shankill Butchers version, the UVF was not a regiment in the British army when war broke out in 1914. The regiment that is held dear to the bosom of Are Wee Country is the 36th Ulster Division, and while there were thousands of UVF members in it, there were also many loyalist paramilitaries in the RUC and you don’t see UVF or UDA wreaths at those commemorations. No,wait. Maybe you do and Squinter just didn’t know it. Which means we can draw only two conclusions. 1. It’s a pretty harmless mistake. 2. It’s a piece of inflammatory coat-trailing. You decide.
It now turns out the UVF wreath was left at the 'shared space' cenotaph before the main ceremony. Some one moved it to the back of the cenotaph before the main ceremony. Who moved it? Why wasn't it removed? Is the organisation that placed it funded by the council? pic.twitter.com/8bsyCnPhsc— Máirtín (@Mairtin_MacG) November 9, 2020
Whatever the case, reports that the Royal British Legion is set to lose millions of pounds in income this year because of Covid were anecdotally borne out on a visit to the Tesco superstore in Lisburn on Saturday evening. But Squinter was left with more questions than answers. The place was extremely busy, certainly more busy than Squinter’s seen it since the start of the Covid emergency, and during his 20 or 30 minutes in there he spotted just three poppies, two of them printed on facemasks. Now that level of non-poppy compliance is unusual, not because a majority of people in Lisburn usually wear poppies – they don’t; but the percentage is usually somewhere around the 10 per cent mark, in Squinter’s experience.
And when you read that the British Legion is going to lose money, you imagine it’s because people are staying at home. But when you see that people who are going out aren’t getting poppied up to the same degree, you have to wonder whether Covid fatigue is catching.
NEWS that an effective Covid vaccine could go live within a few weeks has brought a lot of joy and hope to a lot of people at a very difficult time.
But any doubts that considerable numbers of anti-maskers are anti-vax conspiracy nuts piggybacking on the pandemic disappeared amidst a torrent of warnings not to take the vaccine until it’s 100 per cent safe.
To which Squinter can only reply that the tinfoil hatters must never have pulled out the wee warning notices inside packs of headache tablets, sinus pills or cold and flu treatments. Three feet long they are, and full of writing you need a Nasa telescope to read.
Not that you’d want to.