Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"remember the atrocity committed against us before which forgives the atrocity we are about to commit today! hurray!"

so interestingly enough i was thinking the other day about writing a post about the use of emotive language in the writing of irish history. specifically i've noticed that historians -- and i'm using this term to cover, as you might say, a multitude of sins from memoirists to journalists to professional academics to passing people who just thought, "what the hell - i can write about that!" -- tend to use the phrase "shot dead" rather than "killed," "murdered," or simply "shot."

and then look at this! a splinter group of the ira -- the actual original ira must be so long gone now -- goes and proves my point: two soldiers killed at antrim army base. "shot dead." right there. guardian coverage. while they were accepting a pizza delivery. and two of the delivery guys got shot, too, but not killed. (at least last i knew -- no-one seems to be too bothered about them.)

anyway, this isn't the post about that because i haven't really finished thinking about it yet. this is more of a post to comment on the fact that, suddenly, there's present-day coverage of my thesis topic.

most of the news commentators i've read have been saying things like, "but it's been so quiet here -- what the hell!" (except -- you know -- in more formal language than that.) even ian paisley's son has made a comment to that effect -- which is really odd, because i was expecting him to come out fulminating the same old orange rubbish that his dad spouts at every opportunity and, so far, he's been remarkably restrained. points to him. 

really what all this "but it's been so quiet!" translates to for me at this point is that something has been bubbling away quietly for at least the past, oh, say, fifteen years? and everyone's been ignoring it or hoping it would go away. which is probably true. what they're now calling "dissident" republicans -- the guys who used to just be "gunmen," "provies," "provos," or, occasionally, "terrorists" or "guerrillas" back in the day -- were never happy with the truces that were called in the '80s or '90s. they were never happy with the good friday peace agreement. they fought the international observers in the late '90s -- not literally, admittedly, but still. they dug in their heels when it came to dumping arms. and one of these groups, the real ira who has claimed the shooting deaths of the two soldiers, were the ones who bombed the bus in omagh in 1998. frankly, i'm still surprised that more people haven't tried to kill martin mcguinness or gerry adams as traitors to the cause. my guess would be that, despite their protestations to the contrary, they both still know enough names and enough doors to knock on to keep themselves from a messy death.

in any case, the present little explosion seems to have been tipped off, or at least immediately predated, by the announcement that the british military would be sending in undercover forces to northern ireland. most people saw this as an admission that there was something going seriously wrong somewhere and "conventional" forces weren't enough to get at it. martin mcguinness almost immediately put out a press release to say he thought it was a bad idea (i can't track down this article any more; if anyone sees it around, would you please send me a link?); i agree. if nothing else, if you're going to do it, don't fucking make an international announcement about it. how many policemen do you want shot? do you still think the irish can't read?

and this morning -- i've begun checking my news feeds with more trepidation than i've felt for a long time -- there was a bbc report of a policeman was shot and killed while responding to a call for help. who wants to sign up for the force, kids! being a cop in northern ireland has to be one of the top 10 worst jobs you can get in the u.k. 

the really fun thing is that all the rhetoric being used by the politicians commenting on the events -- from the head of the police force, sir hugh orde, to gordon brown, to gerry adams and ian paisley -- would sound totally familiar to any irish nationalist from the 1890s: these are the actions of a dissident group; they don't represent the feelings of the majority; we must respect the feelings of the population... this must sound dishearteningly familiar to anyone who lived in northern ireland, or even passed through it and read a newspaper, between 1969 and 1990. this isn't a new response; despite claims to the contrary, this is the same old response trotted out yet again. lets see if it works this time!

(the subject line, by the way, is poorly quoted from memory from a terry pratchett discworld novel. it's a line he uses more than once. i think i might be cribbing it this time from... jingo maybe? or possibly fifth elephant.)

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