LAST week’s The View (BBC One) was a programme of two halves. The first half interrogated Alison Morris, Professor Dominic Bryan and Kellie Armstrong (Alliance) about the loyalist strutting their stuff in Newtownards and similar places the second half gathered recollections of the final days before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
Alison Morris was struck by the youthfulness of the masked loyalist gang she saw and said she thought they were motivated by “extortion, criminality and ego”. They were operating in areas where there were lots of UDA murals and they considered themselves loyalists, but the reality was something less.
Kellie Armstrong said she drove past Newtownards Court House and there were large groups of masked men and considerable numbers of police – but the police didn’t confront the masked youths for fear of a riot. Dominic Bryan said they were drug dealers, such as might be found in Glasgow or Dublin, but with deeper roots in the community and affording some in the community a sense of security.
One thing came through clearly: the PSNI were being led by the nose in Newtownards. Imagine if a masked group with republican links had paraded down the Falls Road – would the PSNI have stood by to avoid a riot?
The second half of the programme featured David Kerr, a former Ulster Unionist Party adviser, who claimed Tony Blair had thrown David Trimble under the bus. Both Mark Simpson and Mark Carruthers were mildly contemptuous of Gerry Adams’s years-later salute to Trimble’s courage. Conal McDevitt (remember him?), wearing a mini-version of Eoin Ó Broin’s glasses, said “the revisionism that’s kicked off in the last half-decade from political republicanism is breathtaking” as well as being “incorrect and a load of balls”.
In addition, he parped, “It’s a denial of where we are as an island today. It does us no service to rewrite our history to try and reframe ourselves in some romantic republican notion. The route to a new Ireland is not through the republicanism of 1916 or the nationalism of 1969. It’s through a re-imagined place that does not speak to anything that Gerry Adams has ever written."
Wow. It’s hard to know whether Conal was intoxicated by the exuberance of his own verbosity, or was simply talking a load of balls.
Conal added that, along with Tim Attwood, he had planned that moment in the Waterfront Hall when Bono stood between David Trimble and John Hume and raised both their arms in an ecstasy of joy. “That’s the image that’s now in the history books,” Conal exulted.
In which case, may God forgive you, Conal. Personally speaking, cheesiness on that scale sends my digestive system into a tail-spin.