Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Butchers' Boy

AT THE Drum, Bob Ellis brings his fabled command of truth and fact to a review of the The Iron Lady, accusing the film of…
…skimping  the war with Argentina, the war on the IRA, the war on the miners' unions, the starving-to-death of imprisoned Irish heroes, the targeted assassinations of terrorist suspects and the trashings of the northern towns that she, like a kind of twinsetted Saddam Hussein, made her calling-cards in her years of rogue adventurist whisky-breathed power that changed, and deranged, the western world.
So Lady Thatcher starved Bobby Sands and the other mad Paddies?

Not according to today’s Silly
LONDON: Margaret Thatcher's secret attempts to end the IRA hunger strikes are revealed in official documents made public for the first time yesterday.
If anyone bears responsibility for the deaths of Sands and the rest, it is people like Ellis – the plastic Paddies safely removed by distance and generations from Northern Ireland, the ones who never failed with their cash donations and moral support to encourage Provo thugs to further acts of murder and mass slaughter, all the while justifying those outrages and lionising their perpetrators. It was easy and safe for Ellis, stuffing his pockets with slung cash from Labor mates in SA and NSW, to urge others to mayhem. No risk, no danger and, best of all, no conscience to be troubled by even the faintest whisper of responsibility.

In the Kingdom By The Sea, author Paul Theroux wrote of his visit to Northern Ireland. Theroux can be painful to read at times, all smug peevishness and not half as clever as he imagines. But he nailed the Troubles with this passage:
LET THEM DIE was scrawled on bricks all over Orange Antrim, and ten hunger strikers had recently fasted until death in the Maze Prison. Then there was the so-called Dirty Protest. I could not imagine a preoccupied and overworked Irishwoman dreaming up this loony tactic. But it was easy to see how a maddened and self-hating Irishman might decide to act out his frustration by smearing the walls of his prison cell with his own shit, and refusing to wear clothes or have a bath or a haircut. “Take that!” they cried, and pigged it in those cells for months, innocently believing they were getting even with the British government by stinking to high heaven.

I thought: this behaviour is so strange, there’s probably no name for it. But surely it was profoundly childlike? This was how small children behaved when they felt angry and abandoned, when they wanted to be pitied….

…I did not believe it was religion as a Christian doctrine that was at the bottom of it all. Ulster was a collection of secret societies to which only men were admitted. The men dressed up, made rules, beat drums, swore oaths, invented handshakes and passwords, and crept into the dark and killed people. When they were done, they returned home to their women, like small children to their mothers.
They remain Ellis’ heroes. Figures, doesn’t it?


  1. Nice post Prof. The lionising of Sands et al of the IRA, like the romanticising of the Basque cretins of ETA and the hilarious attempts to lend Subcomandante Marcos of wherever in Mexico a kind of chic cachet are a fascinating study of lefty numptiness. I wonder what stops folks like Ellis lionising the Sicilian mafia? I can't see much diff between what the IRA does and what the Mafia does. It's all violence and blackmail for no benefit.

  2. And is that a slur against Saddam Hussein, I detect in the Prophet's demented jabberings? Did not his Labor buddies and henchmen attempt to raise party funds from the socialist Baathist regime when it was headed by the very tyrant himself? Bob now biting the dead hand from which Labor was once wont to feed.

  3. Too right Prof. I have lived through 'the Troubles' on both sides of the border. Quaint name for a very ugly time. I'm frequently asked 'what is was like', 'why..' etc. Without fail my answers only serve the listeners' political leanings and favourite prejudices. Whatever I said only suited their own complacent thinking. Without fail.

    You'd have to be an exceptional 'hard man' or just plain 'thick' to survive the Falls Road, Sandy Row (both in Belfast) or even Finglas (in Dublin) for even a few minutes. What I've always thought odd is that any outsider would voluntarily buy into this generations-old vicious fight. There's no 'good and bad' when you are on the end of a beating or knee capping, just plain fight or flight. Whose tribe you are with counts as protection of sorts. Anything shy of fulsome support was treated with suspicion and could easily result with a bullet in the back of the head.

    One of my favourite lines to stem the curious and political voyeurs is the one about the Jewish man who hailed a black taxi* in Belfast. He realises too late he's being driven into a nasty part of town and in panic he declares his jewishness to which the reply was "welI, well, I must be luckiest arab in the whole of Belfast".

    *It's well known that black taxis were front businesses for the paramilitaries to launder money sourced from illegal extortions and the like. They were also used as a grisly cartage service for the Shankill butchers and others.

  4. Never thought that I'd have a kind word for Theroux but I 'd say that he's nailed it

  5. As long as the left fill the majority of the story-telling positions in our world, they will continue to ridicule and misrepresent figures like Reagan, Thatcher, Bush, Howard, and Rumsfeld - the last one mercilessly satirised while being an astute and valuable adviser to several presidents.
    Movies and Bob Ellis commentaries are just bits of "get even" fluff, but they will sway the opinions of, or impressions on, those minds impervious to genuine history.