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Sunday 31 December 2017


Out, out, out! Time to purge! Let the deportations begin

Our public life needs its annual New Year cull of fools and knaves, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

I'm having my annual post-Christmas bilious attack, caused by having been lectured and sung at everywhere for weeks about peace and goodwill and loving your fellow man. The only cure for the consequent nausea is a cleansing purge. Of people.

Yes, folks, it's time for "Who shall we run out of the country. Now!?" - a game all the family can play.

Let's start with that well-known Dubliner - though not as well known as this inveterate attention-seeker would wish - Sinn Fein councillor Chris Andrews. 

Mr Andrews is a man of shifting loyalties. A member of the Andrews Fianna Fail dynasty, having lost his Dail seat he wrote more than 300 abusive tweets about Micheal Martin and other party colleagues via an anonymous Twitter account. Having been unmasked, he stormed off into Sinn Fein, where he appears to have abandoned his long-time campaign to find the killers of Joseph Rafferty - murdered in Dublin in 2005, allegedly by a Provo - and in 2014 was elected to the City Council. 

Last year, Mr Rafferty's family - who have endured years of republican intimidation - described Mr Andrews as a liar and a hypocrite. 

He failed to make it back into the Dail in 2016 but hasn't given up hope - hence his eye-catching clamber up City Hall waving a Catalonian flag during a protest following the October independence referendum in Spain. He's one of the many intellectually challenged pro-Catalonia Shinners who are simultaneously in favour of partitioning Spain while demanding a united Ireland. 

I'm deporting him to Madrid: if you run across him in a bar singing songs of exile, you might ask if he'd favour Dublin voting itself out of the Republic because, like Catalonia, it's fed up subsidising the poorer regions.

Back to matters domestic, albeit with a foreign twist. Over the past few years, Colm O'Gorman, the executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, whose brave work for the abused I long admired, seems to be adopting the ethos of condescension and entitlement that led me years ago to cancel my subscription to his parent organisation. 

It's a sad fact that many bosses in the charity sector come to think of themselves as morally superior to those who pay their salaries. "Our ethics are better than your ethics" is the only way of interpreting O'Gorman's explanation that he will not obey the instruction of the Standards in Public Office commission (SIPO) and return the €137,000 provided by George Soros's Open Society Foundation to reform the abortion laws, because: "We're being asked to comply with a law that violates human rights, and we can't do that." 

You are fully entitled to fight this in the courts, Colm, but Ireland is a civilised country and you have an obligation to obey its laws. It's time for you to get some perspective by working abroad somewhere like a Bangladeshi camp for Rohingya refugees. 

I'll send with you a couple of leading lights of the "Because-we're-worth-it" brigade, the Arts Council's chair Sheila Pratschke and her deputy John McAuliffe. They have been similarly outraged by the effrontery of the Government in thinking it's in charge and failing to realise its duty is to channel all its arts money through the Arts Council. Ms Pratschke is utterly incensed at the very existence of Creative Ireland, set up last year to put creativity at the centre of public policy. 

It may well be that Mr McAuliffe is right to describe it as "part-car, part-temple, part-group-hug and part-energy-drink", but John Concannon, until recently Creative Ireland's director, has done a cracking job with such initiatives as Ireland 2016 and the Wild Atlantic Way, so it deserves a chance. You might think the deserved kicking the Arts Council got earlier this year when it tried to bully Aosdana might have taught it something, but you'd be wrong. Colm Toibin said its language had echoes of North Korea. Exile and reflection are called for.

Probably internal exile is enough to punish Tipperary Garda Division for winning the competition over who could enter most fictitious breath tests with a resounding 385pc. Send the lot of them to Kerry, which scored only 9pc, and whose denizens will not be short of cruel jokes. 

A slightly more serious contender is Ciaran Cannon, the well-meaning Minister of State for the Diaspora, who seems to have given no thought whatsoever to the unintended consequences of a) giving a vote for the presidency to all Irish citizens abroad and b) having representation for them in the Dail. By all means allow Irish people a postal vote in their old constituency for say 10 years after moving abroad, but that should be it. Is he seriously suggesting that millions of people who have never lived in the country but have taken citizenship for reasons of convenience or sentiment should have the right to vote for the head of state, let alone for a member of Dail Eireann? 

Mr Cannon needs a year's intensive course in comparative political democratic methods somewhere challenging, with special reference to "no representation without taxation". 

And then there's Simon Coveney. It takes some doing to convince such objective and well-informed journalists as Newton Emerson and Andy Pollak that his loose language and mistaken interpretations of the Good Friday and St Andrews agreements are destroying the carefully built up relationships with unionism and risk, in Pollak's words, "a bloody maelstrom somewhere down the road". 

The minister has shown naivety, ignorance and arrogance in spades. Time to send him off to somewhere like Colombia escorted by such ghastly luminaries of the peace industry as Gerry Kelly and Ian Paisley. He can return home when he learns some humility, comes to his senses and realises that short-termism is the enemy of peace.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

Ruth Dudley Edwards' 'The Seven: the life and legacies of the founding fathers of the Irish Republic' was published by Oneworld on March 22

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards