Sunningdale’s slowest learners: Britain’s hard right

It seems not everyone is happy about Monday’s genuinely historic deal between Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams. What’s more surprising than the internal opposition within the DUP is the harsh criticism emanating from some quarters on this side of the water.

Dean Godson provides a good example:

  I used to think that David Trimble was the weakest Unionist leader of all
  time. I was dead wrong. He can’t hold a candle to Ian Paisley…

..If Paisley had real bottle, he would have told the British and Irish Governments: do your worst. Impose your undefined Plan B. Could it really be much worse than this – with an unrepentant Martin McGuinness as co-premier, strutting around and playing the politics of ethnic wind up with renewed vigour?

  Peter Hain may be ghastly, but at least he’s never had blood on his hands. I’d gladly pay an extra few bob on the water bill for that. (Belfast Telegraph)

For Simon Heffer, Peter Hain is precisely the man to blame. According to Heffer we live in "a polity in which the most shocking things happen, and the most
shocking people govern us; and in which we seem no longer remotely to
care about it, them or their increasingly awful consequences."

If you seek the personification of this repellent political climate,
you need look no further than the Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter
Hain. It could have been predicted from, as it were, his earliest youth
that Mr Hain would turn out as he has. He began life as a
semi-professional student agitator. For 15 years he worked for a trade
union. Always greasily ambitious, he rose to the top of the Young
Liberals. Not being a stupid man (contrary to the impression he quite
consistently gives), he then deserted them for the Labour Party, and 16
years ago was elected an MP. (Daily Telegraph)

Reading some of the vitriolic comments left by readers of Heffer’s article, it’s seems Hain is still a right-wing hate figure, nearly 40 years after the Stop the Seventy Tour campaign.

During the mid-1970s, this status almost got Hain framed for bank robbery.

Hain is now a successful politician, bidding to be deputy leader of the Labour
party, and the affair that bore his name is all but forgotten. But the
papers, released by the Crown Prosecution Service under the Freedom of
Information Act, are a reminder of a pre-Thatcherite era when this country
was suffering its darkest period since the second world war.

Against a background of economic decline, trade union triumphalism, Northern
Ireland terrorism and the cold war, Britain was gripped by doubts about some
of the most important institutions of state.

Politicians were discredited by scandal and incompetence; Sir Robert Mark, the
Metropolitan police chief, estimated that 400 of his officers were corrupt;
Harold Wilson, the prime minister, confessed he had lost control of the
security services; and a cabal of industrialists and retired generals
allegedly considered trying to seize power. (Sunday Times)

Ironically, this right-wing activity may have been a factor in the fall of Sunningdale, the first attempt at power-sharing in Northern Ireland, in 1974.

Margaret Urwin of Justice for the Forgotten, alluded to this in an article welcoming the latest agreement earlier this week:

Ms Urwin said that following the publication of the recent report by
Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan and others by Mr Justice Henry Barron –
all into security-force collusion with paramilitaries – she believed
Sunningdale was always going to be a false dawn.

"It was more than an opportunity missed," she said.

"I think there were forces in the background keeping the pot
boiling on both sides. These forces were part of the British

"One of the terrible tragedies was that it was not just about
loyalists and republicans or Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley. It was about
who was pulling the strings." (Irish News via Nuzhound)

One can only hope that the McEntee Report on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 will shed some light on this period, as the Taoiseach suggested yesterday:

THE Dublin and Monaghan
bombings report is unlikely to result in the perpetrators being brought
to justice, the Taoiseach said yesterday.

In a surprisingly frank admission, Mr Ahern said he had read much
of the McEntee report into the blasts on May 17, 1974, which killed 33,
but had not yet finished it.

"It will help us in our understanding of what happened," the
Taoiseach said. "I don’t think that it will help in the area of

Mr Ahern was vague on whether the report specifically pointed the
finger at British security services in aiding loyalist paramilitaries
to unleash a synchronised series of car bombs in four locations.

"I think it (the McEntee report) has to be taken in the context of
the O’Loan investigations and the Hamilton and Barron reports," Mr
Ahern said, referring to other probes carried out by the Northern
Ireland police ombudsman and two senior Irish judges.

   "There is no doubt, around a number of the issues investigated, that collusion did take place." (Irish Independent)

Paisley and Adams have both moved on from 1974, when both were hardline opponents of power-sharing. Unfortunately, it seems, not everybody has made the same journey.








Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *