Orwell was seldom short of something to say on most
matters. His discourse would come to be incessantly
plundered by a posterity hunting pearls of seemingly
universal wisdom. When Gerry Kelly first introduced
me to Orwells work in the cages of Long Kesh
in 1978 I found a lifelong friend - George, not Gerry.
Along with the intro came a recommendation that I
should approach Orwell as a means to understand all
political leaderships, which if not challenged and
held to account will screw their rank and file. Since
then I have constantly revisited writings like 1984
or Collected Essays for purposes of reflection.
I have never felt disappointed.
years ago as we watched the Stormont political class
chatter, waffle and disempower us behind our backs
I was ineluctably drawn to the closing words of Animal
Farm where the author described the beasts standing
outside the Manor in which the real decisions were
being made. Gazing ruefully from man to pig they could
no longer discern which was which. Observing what
for the most part were the same old faces up at Hillsborough
today trying to burrow their snouts even deeper into
the gravy train I sought refuge in Orwell once more
who in a review of a book by Professor F.A. Hayek
offered the following insight:
necessarily gives power to an inner ring of bureaucrats,
who in almost every case will be men who want power
for its own sake and will stick at nothing in order
to retain it.
he had substituted for socialism the word
republicanism, the reading eye would not
have broken its stride, the text apparently seamless.
Throughout my years in prison, one of our nightmare
scenarios was of the British being able to secure
precisely what republican leaders are seeking to achieve
today. So anathema was it that one had to enter a
state of intellectual Hades to even entertain the
notion - the stuff of nightmares not revolution: a
partitionist terminus where our leaders would gleefully
disembark from anything remotely radical, surrender
and then celebrate being allowed to administer British
rule as part of a new internal solution. In the H-Blocks,
we were much too close to the sacrifices of the hunger
strikers to be able to swallow ignominy like that
over tables with our new buddies - the Brits, and
their old buddies - the unionists. For years we refused
to wear any clothing that the establishment sought
to sew us into. The merest hint of a suggestion that
the uniform of the establishment would come to fit
our leaders like a glove was treasonable.
as it turned out Christopher Hitchens, the author
of a recent work on Orwell, could have easily been
writing about our leaders when he aimed his pen in
the direction of other former radicals:
just another self-interested faction with an attitude
toward government and a hope that it can get some
of its people in there. That makes it the same as
everyone else - only slightly more hypocritical
and slightly more self-righteous.
it is hard to get too worked up about the shenanigans
at Hillsborough. For years Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern
have played handmaiden to the collective vanity of
all our politicians. For half a decade we have witnessed
ultimate deadline by endless postponement, a sure
incentive for our political class to carry on grooming
and preening itself in front of the cameras, making
ever more meaningful Emily OReillys barb
that the only thing that will normally come between
a politician and media exposure is sudden death'.
For five full years they have foraged in and drained
the public purse as they have led us down linguistic
mazes only to come back to the very same point, the
same issue, the same allegation and accusatory tone.
The affected horror at the other camp having supposedly
reneged on this or that meaningless political point
has induced in us the affliction of a permanent yawn.
In their uncurbed vanity they have sought to persuade
us that each new crisis was the greatest yet to face
humanity; they have tried to stupefy us into thinking
that Stalingrad, Rwanda or El Salvador were mere historical
footnotes compared with our global shaking conflict.
dont get angry about it anymore. It no longer
has the same meaning for me. Not being part of a struggle
long since concluded is nothing to despair over. Our
leadership waged a successful war against the physical
force tradition and will soon secure the dissolution
of the IRA and the reform of the RUC. Evidence that
Orwell still matters. But If one death or one day
in prison was all that was required to change it and
put us back on the right track, I would feel it was
a death and a day too many. What is done is done.
The dusting alone remains. But there is no reason
to celebrate defeat.
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