17 March 2006

Naomh Gall abú: the best offer we have

Daily Ireland


St Patrick turned the stone and drove out the snakes and invented the shamrock and whatever else, but the best thing he did was to give the plain people of Ireland the Football and Hurling Club Finals in Croke Park on the day on which Irishmen, women and children all over the world remember our patron saint.
The County is the County and I look forward to the day when the saffron shirts of Antrim lift the Liam McCarthy and the Sam Maguire and bring them back home to Belfast, but the club is the club. That’s local. That’s up the road, and down the street. That’s us.
Thanks be to God that I used to go to St Gall’s.
St Gall’s was my primary school, and I remember running up Bombay Street every morning to get into that joyous institution. Well, I’m sure it was joyous, but that’s not the point.
The point is I that went to St Gall’s Primary School from September 1962 until June 1969 and that makes me entitled to go to Croke Park today and shout my wee head off for the boys in blue. Yellow, for the boys in yellow with blue bits here and there. Look, it doesn’t matter what colour they wear today, our heroes are going to win the Andy Kerrigan Cup and that will be the first time for any Antrim team to have won the All-Ireland Club Football Championship.
And I say our heroes because, well, when each boy left St Gall’s Primary School in June 1969, the Brothers presented us all with membership of the St Gall’s club. Okay, maybe it was junior membership, or juvenile membership, or a trial period – I don’t know, 1969 was a while ago now – but I definitely remember something and as far as I am concerned that means I’m in at Croker today.
I admit my connection with St Gall’s since those heady days of ‘69 has been a little bit tenuous, a little bit tenuous to say the least. I think I called in to the clubhouse for a drink one night around 15 years or so ago, and I am almost sure I once bought a raffle ticket off one of the members, but never mind: today, in Croke Park, we are all St Gall’s.
St Gall’s’ big match today has set west Belfast alight with excitement – well, people are talking and there are big banners up here and there, and that’s good. We are normally well-used to excitement, and mostly of the political type. These days, however, things are slow.
Noises are being made, but I don’t know. For instance, front page Irish Times yesterday, side headline read ‘Pressure on DUP to start talking to Sinn Féin’. And that’s all fine and dandy, but then you read further and see that Secretary of State Peter Hain stated that the DUP must ‘eventually’ start talking to Sinn Féin.
Sure there isn’t a DUP man from Ballymena to Comber who would disagree with that bold statement. Yes, of course they will speak to Sinn Féin eventually, but when is eventually? And who gets to decide when eventually has eventually arrived?
We have to examine what Peter Hain or other British politicians mean when they use the word pressure in the context of the DUP talking to Sinn Féin. For a start, the word ‘eventually’ negates the effect of the word ‘pressure’ from the get-go. The word ‘pressure’ normally assumes a somewhat tighter timescale than ‘eventually.’
Putting pressure on a person or organisation to do something is usually quite easy. You just lay out a course of action that makes it clear to the subject that the consequences of not doing what they are being asked to do will worse for them than doing what they are being asked to do. You can even suggest that doing what they are being asked to do will bring rewards that the subject person or organisation would find quite attractive.
The DUP does not want the Good Friday Agreement to work, they do not want to talk to Sinn Féin and they do not want change towards equality in the Six Counties. That is fair enough because they are the DUP. Others, obviously, have a different perspective, but that is the way the DUP look at things.
The British government seems to be pressurising the DUP to talk to Sinn Féin, work the God Friday Agreement and progress towards an equitable society in the Six Counties by wagging a fatherly finger at them and telling them to do as they are bid. Or else not.
The consequences of not talking to Sinn Féin will be not talking to Sinn Féín. The consequences of not working the Good Friday Agreement will be the Good Friday Agreement does not work. The consequences of refusing to move with the rest of us towards a fair and equitable society in the Six Counties will be that a fair and equitable society does not come about.
Now I am loathe to credit Ian Paisley and his party with any great brains, but you do not need a degree from the Open University to realise that this level of pressure is bearable. Rocket science, it ain’t.
Perhaps St Patrick can work one of his miracles. Perhaps the sight of victorious Naomh Gall, showing Andy Kerrigan off to all of the Falls Road, will be enough to change Big Ian’s mind. Or perhaps not.
You would think that the two governments between them could come up with a better plan to achieve progress in the North, rather than ‘pressurising’ the DUP or hoping for the best.
Okay, I admit it, tomorrow I will be back to supporting Naomh Pól, football and hurling, handball and camogie, all grades and all competitions, but today my tenner is on the men from Milltown.
Naomh Gall abú!

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