pigs had been fed and all their equipment checked
in preparation for flying. A special blue moon was
on order for the purpose of illuminating the celebrations. Meanwhile
back in Belfast Lord Lucan saddled Shergar for a pleasant
jaunt, whilst the Unicorns helped the Leprechauns restring
Elviss guitar. Bigfoots tuxedo was not
a good fit and he looked very nervous never having
been a bouncer before. But he boldly stuck out his
chest and strode forth to the entrance gate at Stormont
ready to scrutinise the party invites
was a cold but dry Tuesday morning, October 21st 2003, when
my alarm clock shocked my bleary eyes back to reality.
The luxury of starting work at 11.30am afforded me
the chance to watch a portion of the mornings political
Long before I had surfaced the British government
had started the ball rolling at 7. 10 am by officially
announcing that the assembly elections would be held
on Wednesday 26th of November.
was swiftly followed by Gerry Adams revelation that
to all intents and purposes the (P)IRA war was at
an end. Those were not the actual words he choose
to use, but it was as close and as clear as he was
likely to make it.
In the various semantic clashes between Republicanism
and Unionism in recent years I have adhered to the
words of the former Presbyterian moderator John Dunlop, who
once asserted that
Nationalists can read between the lines, Unionists
can only read the lines.
Following this P. ONeill confirmed that it had
re-opened contact with General De Chastelain and had
approved a third act of weapons decommissioning. Shortly
afterwards the General informed us that this had already
taken place, and hinted strongly that this latest act
of destruction was the largest that had taken place
P. ONeill responded again that he had also set
in motion a fourth act of weapons dismantling.
Then the wheels fell off the happy truck as David
Trimble sensationally halted the painfully
rehearsed sequence of events.
The acts that had been agreed in the taut and tense
days before were stalled because the UUP leader asserted
that the details of the act were not transparent
enough. That is he was not satisfied that the IRA had
invoked a clause in its dealings with the IICD
allowing it to keep private the full inventory of
what had been destroyed.
This was a confidence that neither De Chastelain, Blair
or Ahern could break. In addition Blair and Ahern were
not privy to this information.
The next day the Daily Mirror published
what it believed to be the complete inventory of the
destroyed IRA arms cache.
It included 988 assault rifles, 67 machine guns, 9 surface
to air missiles, 46 rockets and 11 launchers, 568 handguns, 115
hand grenades, 7 flame throwers and most significantly
2, 658 kilos of Semtex plastic explosives.
It is quite probably true that this cache would be
considerably more armoury than the armies of some
developing third world nations. Yet if it is an accurate
depiction of the act it represents a monumental step
for what probably was the most effective guerilla
grouping in history.
However since the confidentiality clause card had
been played and General De Chastelain has threatened
to resign if he is forced to reveal the full contents
of the inventory, where did The Mirror
come up with this list of weapons?
Tony Blair has landed himself in lukewarm water by
saying that he had become aware of the full inventory
details in an hour long meeting with De Chastelain,
only to have the General deny that such a meeting
never actually took place. Presumably Blairs
intentions were to cajole Trimble into a reconsideration
of his actions by playing a bluff hand of political
poker. It only resulted in accusations against the
Prime Minister that he had mislead the commons on
this point. Yet as Nigel Dodds of the DUP caustically
quipped, it would not be the first occasion that Blair
has mislead the Commons on the issue of weaponry.
It is not beyond imagination that the source of the
inventory that appeared in last Thursdays edition
of The Mirror emanated from Sinn Fein.
Indeed The Mirror seemed sufficiently
assured of its legal standing before publication and
to the best of my knowledge has not been challenged
from any quarter as to the the authenticity of its
source, whatever it actually was.
However being drawn into speculation on this debacle
is about as fruitful as Trimbles actions in
the first place.
the nature of the secretive agreement between Sinn
Fein and the UUP, it is abundantly apparent that Sinn
Fein adhered more closely to their end of the bargain.
After all, all parties voted the passing of the confidentiality
clause in the decommissioning legislation, therefore
if the strictures of this policy are followed properly
then Trimble in effect has no right to halt this sequence
of events. The faux pas made by Sinn Fein however was
to enter into a side deal in the private arena with
the most childish Machiavellian in modern Irish politics.
Lets put this plainly. If David Trimble was an
honest broker in this process he would have resigned
a long time ago. His natural proclivity towards petulance
and threats to take his ball off the pitch is now
a tiresome and pathetic spectacle.
So why did he pull the UUP oar out of the water?
It has been plain for several years that Trimbles
participation in politics is a game to him. He thrills
at brinkmanship, but huffs like a baby lawyer when
it all goes wrong. Never forget how he became leader
of the UUP in 1995, when he stole John Taylors
thunder by skipping down the Garvaghy Road hand in
hand with Paisley.
Prior to this point he had been a relatively minor
personality in UUP politics, a party he had really
only thrown his full weight behind after loosing badly
to Mary Mc Aleese for the position of Pro-Vice Chancellor
at Queens University, whilst he held a position
as a lecturer in law there.
Trimble is a talented professional sophist and an
opportunist extraordinaire. He has actually managed
a Kafkaesque metamorphsis from the man who shared
a stage with Bill Craig as second in command of the
Vanguard movement in the 1970s,
as Craig declared the need to Liquidate the
is not to leave aside the allegations made against
him in Sean McPhilemys banned publication The
Committee. This book alleged that several leading
Unionist businessmen and political figures colluded
with loyalists paramiltaries and renegade RUC officers
in killing Catholics in the 1990s. It was Trimble's
legal intervention that prevented the book's widespread
publication on a wafer thin technicality at the last
cogent reason for Trimbles halting of this process
is the fact that he was not going loose the chance
to regain some of the hard line kudos within the UUP. Furthermore
there is a desire to pander to the wider faceless
establishment and by appearing to hold the whip hand
over the IRA, he can engineer a situation whereby further
and more transparent acts of decommissioning can be
effectively construed as IRA surrender.
In all this of course there is the farce of electioneering.
The UUP leader has given ground to all Unionist anti-agreement
factions by his deeds. One can almost see the DUP summoning
up the ghosts of their paranoid ancestors to help
decry the papist demons.
Perversely this could also be Trimbles intention, to
create a scorched earth policy for any future executive
that may hold a majority of the DUP and Sinn Fein.
If not, Trimble better have another card to play as
his actions last week may have consigned him to self
inflicted political death.
Winter elections will make for an even more apathetic
electorate who stay away in their droves in summer
elections, let alone dark cold and wet nights, especially
in rural areas.
This will not affect nationalist or republican voters
who have learned the valuable lesson of using their
vote as it was hard to come by in the first place. It
has to be said that this is all a far cry from some
of the leaders of Sinn Fein who as youngsters in the
early 1970s regularly verbally and physically
abused nationalist voters outside polling stations.
In any event the pessimism of Bertie Ahern has proved
so far to be correct on this occasion.
It is likely that the DUP and Sinn Fein ascendancy
in the coming poll will make any future executive
unworkable anyway. The UUP election campaign posters
have depicted them as being as British as fish
As Tuesday October 22nd came to an end and I drifted
back off to sleep, my mind drifted back to that imaginary
party up at Stormont. Since they had been grounded
the flying pigs were invited inside for some food.
Can you guess what they were eating?
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