Belfast Telegraph

They still haven't gone away

By Lindy McDowell

We are always on about iconic images from the peace process. But there have been iconic sound-bites too. And none more enduring than the infamous aside delivered at a republican rally with iconic dental overbite and trademark smirk by Mr Gerry Adams himself.

The IRA - they haven't gone away you know.

It is a phrase that has returned time and again to haunt the process.

Even now post-putting weapons beyond use, the cementing operation attended by Father Reid and Rev Good and the installation of former IRA commander Martin McGuinness up at Stormont - even now, there is still the troubling recognition that they're still out there.

That we know they still haven't gone away.

But have they gone back to murder?

That's the big question that's been raised this week by the savage killing in Co Monaghan of 21-year-old Cullyhanna man, Paul Quinn (right).

If it is proved that the Provos did kill him - and his family are convinced that they did - the implications for our process are explosive.

But before we even get into considering what the fallout might mean for the Assembly, let us not lose sight of our humanity.

For the bigger story in all this is not the knock-on effect on Stormont. It's the sheer, utter, absolute horror of that young lad's barbaric death.

At the time of writing the full details still aren't clear but there are reports of his friends being tied up and forced to make the call that lured him to his gruesome death. He was, it is reported, savagely beaten by a gang of around 15 men.

God alone knows what Paul Quinn's friends witnessed. God alone knows what he endured. For any of us that doesn't bear thinking about. But for his parents and family it must be total mental hell.

The barbarity of the boy's murder bears all the hallmarks of the Provies in the past.

Needless to say though, Gerry has been quick off the mark to deny that the blood-stained fingerprints of P O'Neill are over this one. The incident was, he maintains, the work of criminals and not the Provisional IRA. Much the same thing as he said, in other words, after the similarly gruesome killing of Robert McCartney.

But what happens if it is accepted up at Stormont that the Provies have indeed been up to their bloody old business?

One DUP MLA is reported as saying: "If the IRA were corporately involved in this murder, that may mean that the executive is finished in its current form."

The key word in all this, the odd word in all this is that qualifier 'corporately'.

We are back again, I'm afraid, to our old friend 'sanctioned' - a term which has been used in the past to imply that murder only counts as a paramilitary murder if it was ordered further up the food chain.

Sanctioned has, up until now, been a classic paramilitary get-out clause. And 'corporately' is another cop-out.

It is a brusquely business-like term to try to sanitise the situation and put a bit of distance between the movement that includes Sinn Fein and that freshly bloodied crime scene just over the border.

The thing is though - will 'corporately' be potent enough to put the same sort of distance, in the mind of DUP voters, between their party and the aforementioned Sinn Fein and that freshly bloodied crime scene just over the border?

For many of the DUP faithful there will have been, in this latest terrible murder, dark echoes of other IRA horrors lost perhaps to history - but still raw in local memory.

And we should not lose sight of the fact that it is the human loss, not the political cost, that measures for most of us the true enormity of such barbarity.

That is why communal grief and bitterness - they haven't gone away yet either.

And why they are as likely to determinate the future of the Assembly as the murderous savagery of a 15-strong gang of masked killers.

Acting 'corporately' or otherwise.

Fountain of knowledge?

There are leaflets all around town at the moment encouraging people to vote for which public artwork they'd like to see erected in Belfast's Arthur Square.

Er, Arthur Square? Where's Arthur Square? Could that be Cornmarket as some of us used to call it?

Right up, that is, until we're handed the leaflet referring to it as Arthur Square.

And what happened to the Jaffa Fountain which, I think I'm right in saying, we were told at one stage would be moved from Botanic Gardens down to the city centre site?

I may have got my facts wrong entirely. But I think this was the plan. Maybe somebody who's not too busy re-branding Belfast will be able to tell us.

Weight for Cate ...

In the see-sawing world of celebrity slimming, nothing is more likely to get you maximum media exposure than a drastic diet.

Even in the age of size zero, the skin and bones look is still a shocker. But the good news for the stars (and for the parents of impressionable girls worried about the impact of all those celeb ribcage shots) is that when they do make a comeback in waistline terms, the coverage is much more kindly.

Back in May pics of Cate Blanchett looking seriously under-fed caused some comment. (She'd lost weight for a film role.)

But this week she's been back in the spotlight after appearing at a movie premiere in Rome looking much more curvy and glamorous.

Proof that you can have your Cate - and eat it.

I'm really liking this disliking idea

Booker winner Anne Enright has had her knuckles rapped for a piece in the London Review of Books about her instinctive (but entirely human) reactions to Kate and Gerry. Especially Gerry.

I liked the idea about her article on the "international sport of disliking the McCanns"- explaining what it is that sometimes rationally, or irrationally, gets our backs up about people.

In fact, I feel inspired to write my own version. Disliking The English. I've nothing against England per se or even the English individually. And yet, I love to see them getting hammered at sport.

It wasn't enough for me that they lost to Russia in the football. I needed them to be beaten by South Africa in the rugby. And while I didn't take a lot of pleasure in Lewis Hamilton's Formula One defeat ... a hat-trick of English failure was an undeniable bonus. But why?

Is it some sort of residual Celtic or Scottish thing? In my case it's not some sad, sectarian flaunting of ancient grievance. I wanted England to lose in the World Cup Final, but not because I blame Phil Vickery for the Irish famine.

I don't want to see disaster or agricultural disease visited upon the English. But 4-0 in Moscow? Somehow that makes my shabby little heart leap up. Why? The premature triumphalism of the media is a major turn-off. But so is the oddly unstable support of English fans. One day they're Nelson at Trafalgar believing in their boys. Next it's recrimination all round.

But most of all it's that consensus that only the English count. You wouldn't see them doing the national 10 o'clock news live from Paris if it was, say, Scotland in the world cup final.

Disliking the English?

A sport at which we can all excel.

Time to put this pyjama drama to bed

Why do we make such a drama about girls in pyjamas?

Doesn't it say something about us all - if all we have to talk about is what some young women wear to the supermarket.

I come from the school of thought that would argue that young women in flannelette is always a tragedy.

But if that's their choice, surely that's their business?

Granted it's sad to see young women sleepwalk their way through life - but it's also sad to hear some representatives defend this on the lunatic grounds of 'human rights', arguing that the pyjama detractors are being classist.

It's not a class thing. It's about personal hygiene, motivation and self-esteem. But it's also about personal choice. The girls in the flannelette have made their choice.

Time to put the debate to bed.

Belfast Telegraph


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