Belfast Telegraph

Ruth Dudley Edwards: The trouble with closed minds is that they make for very dull, meaningless conversations

No, I'm not obsessed with Gerry Adams, but while his 'cult' endures, I'm not letting up, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

You're obsessed with Gerry Adams: that's what Sinn Fein supporters tell me on social media in unison, with great frequency and with different spins on the message, varying from my secretly fancying him to being a monomaniacal saddo.

Well, it wasn't my fault that he came up as a subject of conversation on Spotlight last Tuesday, where I shared a platform with four others.

But that was in addition to discussions mainly about Brexit.

Owen Smith - who had the guts to challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership last year and was punished by being appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland - describes himself as a Remoaner and therefore thinks Northern Ireland should have special status.

Christopher Stalford, a DUP MLA, gives priority to Northern Ireland staying an undiluted part of the United Kingdom, its main market.

Martin Mansergh, one-time Fianna Fail TD and Senator, who was a key adviser on Northern Ireland to Charlie Haughey, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern, is anxious for the softest possible outcome achieved through sensible negotiations.

John O'Dowd, Sinn Fein MLA and ex-minister, demands special status and a border poll.

I, an Irish citizen and London resident, who voted Leave after much agonising, want no deal that undermines the unity of the United Kingdom or prevents its government controlling its borders and making free-trade agreements with the rest of the world, but I also want a good result for the Republic.

Mind you, if there was another referendum, I'd vote Leave without a moment's hesitation.

I absolutely don't want to be in a club that - like the Soviet Union or the Hotel California ("You can check out any time you like/But you can never leave!") - won't let me out.

Yes, the British government has been pretty shambolic, but the EU Commission behaves appallingly.

If sanity breaks out and a free-trade deal is done between the EU and the UK, most of the problems of the border will melt away, so it was nonsensical to insist as a prerequisite that guarantees be given about the border.

I wish we'd had time on Spotlight to talk about the state of the EU, which has deep fissures which could cause it to implode and makes the Republic's trust in it potentially dangerous.

The size and strength of Germany imbalances the entire structure and has led among other terrible injustices to the sacrifice of Greece on the altar of the German bankers.

There are also, for instance, the problems with Hungary and Poland, both of which are refusing to follow EU instructions on immigrant quotas to ease the plight of Germany, overwhelmed by Angela Merkel's quixotic and unilateral opening of Europe's borders.

And will Ireland stay Europhile if there is tax harmonisation?

The panel discussions were polite (except for a bit of aggro between me and Mr O'Dowd), but what struck me was that despite having different aspirations, and being steeped in tribal politics, Messrs Mansergh and Stalford were open-minded and thoughtful.

Martin Mansergh, with whom I've disagreed about much for 30 years, I count as a friend.

We spent an hour together after we left the BBC having an interesting and rewarding conversation. I would have liked it had Christopher Stalford, one of my Facebook friends, been able to join us, for, like Martin, Christopher is well-informed and listens respectfully to the point of view of others.

That seems not to be true of the fourth Irish person on the panel, for Irish republicanism has morphed into a cult that behaves like the Scientology leadership if its diktats are challenged in any way.

Hence the slavish devotion to the Sinn Fein hymn sheet that makes meaningful discussion impossible and is leading to the haemorrhaging of councillors in the Republic.

You can expect more trouble when, in the name of progressiveness and human rights, the party completes its volte-face over abortion.

When we were asked about Gerry Adams' retirement, John O'Dowd played a familiar tune: "If Gerry goes, what's Ruth going to write about?" he asked.

The majority of my books have nothing to do with Ireland, John, but while a totalitarian cult threatens the island I love, I'll go on writing about it and its sinister leadership.

Belfast Telegraph

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