Hegarty bounced into the Bloody Sunday centre in
Foyle Street on Thursday, beaming, to announce that
the Law Lords had just ruled the 2001 Terrorism
Act out of court.
Mind you, she cautioned. They
say that jailing people without charge goes against
everything Britain stands for. So what happens here
It was an apt point on the particular occasion.
The original Bloody Sunday march was, of course,
a protest against internment.
Theres another connection, too. The Terrorism
Act was introduced by David Blunkett, whose political
career has just come a cropper on account of him
having threatened to have civil servants slowly
roasted over a spit if they didnt issue his
lovers nanny with a visa. Something like that.
If the visa wasnt rubber-stamped in double-quick
time, Blunketts lover would have had to look
after her child herself while on holiday.
(We should keep this in mind the next time we hear
Blunkett explaining that he has been driven throughout
by a fierce commitment to family duty and the necessity
for people to take responsibility for their own
actions. If he had told his lover to take responsibility
for wiping her own babys bum, thered
have been none of this bother.)
Blunkett had a reputation as a very left-wing socialist
altogether in his days as council leader in Sheffield.
Raised the Red Flag high over Sheffield Town Hall
one splendid May morning. What prompted him, then,
to turn his back on his ideals and start long-term
planning to arm the traffic wardens with machine-guns?
In the early years of the 1980s, as firebrand Blunkett
strutted the south Yorkshire scene, the political
topography was shifting. In 83, under Michael
Foot, Labour had lost its second election in a row
to deranged Thatcher. Queasier comrades were beginning
to believe that the only way theyd get into
government was to look and sound and act like Tories.
Everywhere in the party, the ambitious were quietly
Blunkett wasnt well placed to accomplish this
transition. Too stridently and famously associated
with the Left. He needed an issue to dramatise disillusionment
with Old Labour, a plausible reason to embrace the
new orthodoxy. Twenty-one years ago this weekend,
the Provos provided it.
On December 17th 1983, a Provisional IRA car-bomb
exploded outside Harrods in London, killing
five innocent people and wounding 80. Outrage was
exacerbated by its happening within the octave of
Xmas. Up in Sheffield, Blunkett saw his chance.
A Bloody Sunday march through the city centre had
been planned for the last Saturday in January. A
clamour arose for the council to ban it. The majority
Labour group was split. There were Labour Leftists
among the march organisers---the sitting MP for
Sheffield Brightside, Joan Maynard, among them.
On the council, the issue was settled when its leader
and Sheffields numero uno socialist shocked
local pundits by coming out stridently in support
of a ban. Naturally, he was roundly denounced by
former comrades. Automatically, he was warmly welcomed
as a fresh convert by the emerging new Labour establishment.
The march issue remained raw within Sheffield Labour
and was a factor the following year when Maynard
was removed as candidate for Brightside and replaced
by the new kingpin of the local Kinnockites, Blunkett.
He duly won the seat in the 1987 general election.
And thus began the rise and rise which many believed
was fated to take him to the top---until the debacle
of recent days.
The Bloody Sunday centre was an apt place, right
enough, to hear of the Law Lords decision
to strike down the discredited Blunketts internment