Great column by Simon Jenkins in today's Guardian. The celebration of the "Cheeky Brothers" Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley has been nauseating. Now the old brute has gone and good riddance to him. Or at least so you might think. But no, instead you could have been forgiven for supposing that a national treasure is slipping from the scene. Jenkins is absolutely correct:
Why do rats float while good men sink? Readers may have exploded over the headline on this page yesterday. It read "A fascinating, gracious man", and crowned a eulogy on Northern Ireland's retiring first minister, Ian Paisley, written by his one-time bitterest foe, Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin/IRA.
Adams described Paisley as variously civilised, good-humoured, respectful, cordial and a man whom "I would like to know better". Funny that Adams, or at least his friends, spent much of their lives trying to kill him or his ilk. As for Paisley's role in inciting violence and tension, it "whetted my political appetite and radicalised a generation of young people like myself". It was almost a thank you. It was sickening...
Between them Adams and Paisley made Northern Ireland ungovernable and brought death, destruction and untold misery to tens of thousands of their countrymen. They offered no leadership towards compromise and undermined those who did by pandering to the baser instincts and fears of their supporters. They were the Taliban of Europe, operating in their equivalent of Tora Bora, the fields of South Armagh and the Orange Order halls of the Shankill. The death toll rose to 3,500.
Adams and his collaborator, Martin McGuinness, destroyed Hume's SDLP, and Paisley's histrionic fundamentalism destroyed Trimble's unionism. Any effort to drag the province into the 20th century was met with a flurry of kneecappings, bombings, murders and exile. These were appalling people doing appalling things, when good people were struggling to bring peace to a corner of a nation that boasted to the world that it was a sophisticated democracy.
For more on how we've taken defeat in Northern Ireland and called it victory, see several posts here.
[Hat-tip: Iain Martin]