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Strictly bizarre as Shinners dance on the memory of their 1916 heroes

By Nelson McCausland

Published 04/02/2016

Thomas 'Slab' Murphy
Thomas 'Slab' Murphy

Many different events are being organised to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, which ended with the execution of the rebel leaders. There is an official programme organised by the coalition government in Dublin and, alongside that, there is an unofficial Sinn Fein programme of events.

However, the prize for the most bizarre and ludicrous commemorative event must surely go to Newry and Armagh Sinn Fein. Its Facebook page explains that: "As part of the centenary events to commemorate the Easter Rising, Newry and Armagh Sinn Fein will be holding a 1916-themed Strictly event in Jonesborough on Saturday, February 6.

"Couples from right across the constituency have been shaking, jumping and jiving all winter in order to claim victory at what promises to be a fantastic event. For tickets, or more information, please contact your local Sinn Fein office, or speak to a member of your local cumann (branch)." For anyone not in a local cumann, it even provides telephone numbers in Crossmaglen, Newry and Armagh.

Sinn Fein probably can't call it Strictly Come Dancing for copyright reasons, but that is what it is and it will be held in the prestigious surroundings of the Jade Centre in Jonesborough.

I hadn't heard of the Jade Centre in Jonesborough, but as a venue for such an event, I imagined something glitzy and palatial.

So, I used the internet to see what it was like. And how disappointed I was.

The only thing I could find was the Jade Business Centre, which has its own Facebook page, although that was last updated in April 2013.

It turns out that Jade is Jonesborough and Dromintee Enterprise Ltd and the centre appears to be a business park.

Several aspects of this event merit the words bizarre and incongruous and are, for some of us, "good for a laugh".

The first is the choice of Strictly Comes Dancing as the model for its event. This is one of the most popular programmes of the British Broadcasting Corporation and shows the way in which the most committed republicans identify with popular British culture.

Is this the best that south Armagh republicans can produce to commemorate their Irish republican heroes? I just wonder what Patrick Pearse would think of it all.

The Sinn Fein advertisement even incorporates a drawing of a couple dancing together, with the man in full evening dress and the woman wearing a magnificent ball-gown.

Evening dress developed as the attire of the 19th century British gentleman - another strange choice for Sinn Fein. But, then, Sinn Fein is moving on - from combat gear to Armani suits and now evening dress.

Sinn Fein also produced a promotional six-minute video for the event. However, this attracted so much ridicule on social media that it removed it, but not before many people had managed to view it, laugh at it, and then copy it for future entertainment.

The promotional video features the sequinned participants demonstrating their dance skills and includes a spoken contribution from Mickey Brady MP, who, with a straight face, tells us: "We want to make republicans proud."

There are also contributions from Megan Fearon MLA and a man named Sean Hughes, who is described as "Sinn Fein".

Hughes is not an elected Sinn Fein politician, but is clearly well-known in the area and bears an uncanny likeness to Sean Gerard Hughes, from Dromintee.

A senior figure in the South Armagh brigade of the Provisional IRA, the Army nicknamed him 'The Surgeon', as they blamed him for carrying out attacks on soldiers with surgical precision.

He was also described as the "right-hand man" to Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, and, more recently, he was in the news in relation to benefits fraud.

The whole affair is ludicrous, but then it is progress when the republican movement moves on from Sinn Fein sloganising to sequins and from "Tiocfaidh ar la" to the cha-cha-cha.

Nelson McCausland MLA is chair of the Assembly's culture, arts and leisure committee

Belfast Telegraph

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