Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Kevin Myers: The Darren Graham affair

What people will do next still remains one of life's greatest unknowns

This is the central lesson of the peace process: you cannot predict human nature. And because you can't, history turns at impossible angles

Let's see the bright side to the Darren Graham affair, and the anti-Protestant abuse he has had to endure. For I never thought the day would come when there would even be a good hurler from Fermanagh, never mind a Protestant one. And as for that good, Fermanagh, Protestant hurler coming from a UDR family, with three of his relatives having been murdered by the IRA: why that is plainly ridiculous. Pigs will fly, and even weave webs, before that could happen; yet happen, it did. Do I understand it? No, I don't, but then I don't understand the Google search engine, or artichokes, or baseball, or Chinese opera, but I must accept they are so.

This is the central lesson of the peace process: you cannot predict human nature. And because you can't, history turns at impossible angles. What we do only makes sense after we have done it. It's impossible to predict the future, as I repeatedly tried to do when forecasting the imminent demise of the peace process. I similarly predicted that the IRA would never disarm, and it largely has. I took Ian Paisley at his word, and most emphatically predicted that he would never go into government with Sinn Fein while it was still attached to a still-armed IRA, and now he has.

This is the single immutable law of human nature. We do not know what people will do next, and only historians can later make 'sense' of human conduct, though there is very little actual sense there. How can sense be made of an Executive composed of the grand-daddy of the Troubles and one of its leading killers? Only a species as wildly irrational as humans could come to such a settlement.

So, the Darren Graham affair reminds us of the unpredictable nature of human beings. We are not lions or marigolds or codfish who obey largely fixed and predictable rules. We are a vain, insane species; China builds three coal-fired power-stations a week, while we in Ireland simper earnestly about cutting down our 'carbon footprint'.

Sentimental emotions can be nearly as dangerous as violent ones, and the heart which is generous in its hospitality towards one, will, on another day, be equally welcoming to the other.

But the key truth in the peace process, as in all human affairs, is that you never can tell. Take those words to heart. You never can tell. That impoverished and out-of-work artist, knuckling as he wheedles passengers to allow him to carry their bags at Vienna's main railway station, in exchange, perhaps for a few groschen, mein Herr, would, 25 years on, be the military conqueror of most of Western Europe.

And look at that solemn student-teacher in the college library at Changsha at around the same time that Hitler is cadging coins in the bahnhof: by the time of the final Berlin bunkerfest, Mao Tse Tong is about to become the greatest butcher of the 20th century. But that too depends on events elsewhere.

Mao could never have triumphed without war in Europe. Ninety years ago in June, as thousands of Irishmen took Messines Ridge, one particular defender was injured. It was merely a matter of luck some Irishman didn't actually kill that Austrian-born soldier of the Kaiser's army, the former railway-station beggar, Adolf Hitler.

However, Willie Redmond MP was killed in that battle. Who, when he was first elected for East Clare in 1891, would have pointed to an awkward, gangly Limerick lad then called Eddie Coll and have declared, "There stands a man who will one day become Eamon de Valera, who will in 26 years be elected in Willie Redmond's stead, en route to being the first democratically elected President of the Irish Republic.''

We take the fall of cards, the random accidents of life, blend them in with the passionate mutability of the human heart, and call the result 'history': but there is nothing inevitable about any of it.

Look at your own lives, and the litany of accidents and chances that went into their making: random events, unsolicited emotions, unintended words, other people's decisions - these are the authors of our destiny. Nothing is inevitable, save death.

Death: ah yes, death. Twenty six years ago this spring, GAA Congress agreed to support the IRA's struggle for 'national liberation'. Some months later, in the course of this GAA-backed 'liberation', some gallant IRA terrorists shot dead a UDR-man in Fermanagh as he delivered coal to a house.

Shortly afterwards, another heroic band of IRA terrorists murdered this man's brother, also a UDR-man, while he visited his desperately ill young Catholic wife, who had just given birth to a premature baby.

Not long afterwards, a third UDR brother was butchered at the wheel of his school bus, shot 31 times by our intrepid national liberators. The sister of these three unfortunate brothers, also in the UDR, was run over at a roadblock and was fatally injured.

Four UDR Grahams, four UDR deaths, with two stricken parents burying their children, one by one. And Darren Graham, the Protestant GAA player at the centre of the latest sectarian controversy, is the nephew of the four dead UDR soldiers.

Make sense of that, if you will. I confess, I cannot.

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