Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Luck of the Irish just ran out

As we look back over what's now two years of blogging, we notice that a sizable portion of early posts were tirades about the state of modern Ireland, such as this one. But there's not much point in saying the same thing over and over again and the sense of stasis was especially strong with the incumbent government -- in power now for a solid seven years and headed by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern whose main skill is finding the path of least resistance out of any controversy.

The Republic's rapid growth has allowed the possibility of making economic promises that sooner or later can be met, but the related "whatever you're having yourself, lads" approach to Northern Ireland may finally be running into problems. Bertie's emphasis that the leading Shinners must have known about the Northern Bank job is hanging out there like a pretty big matzoh ball, causing grave offence to Saints Gerry and Martin.

And more generally, the peace process is no longer the kind of thing that all right-thinking people must support -- and then get on planes for lavish St Patrick's Day receptions in Washington. It's increasingly clear that Dubya will pull the plug on the festivities this year and indeed with the current vigour of the WoT, it's not clear that the Shinners will even get visas to enter the US this time around.

But it doesn't stop there. We've made reference before to the Republic's maniacal road builders, the National Roads Authority, who bring the best in 1950s planning, plus a dollop of cronyism, to Irish road construction. While the Authority's top project has been the asphaltisation of County Meath, they've extended their brief to paving over any sites associated with the Irish portion of the Glorious Revolution.

The most active struggle against this plan is in Galway, where the NRA wants to run a motorway through the site of the 1691 Battle of Aughrim. With King William as the eventual victor of course, Unionists have traditionally taken a greater interest in preserving these sites, but David Trimble in this case has something concrete to base a claim -- a letter from Bertie telling him the site was safe:

the Taoiseach said "Galway County Council and their consultants are aware of the historical importance of battlefields at Aughrim and you can be assured that full consideration of their significance will be taken into account during route design".

Incidentally, in a related letter from a historian, one gets a sense of just how international this battle in the west of Ireland was:

In a letter to Mr Ahern, Mr Cecil Kilpatrick, BSc, archivists of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, warned that the M6 route would run "through the command post of the Williamite General Ginkel, through the position of the right wing of the Williamite Cavalry commanded by Huguenot General Ruvigny and through the site of a Williamite Gun Battery.

A few other minor matters while we're at it. The official IRA denial (not to be confused with an Official IRA denial) of involvement in the Northern job came in the name of P O'Neill -- indeed, that's what made it official. So for the benefit of all the Google searchers coming our way, rest assured that we're not him, and we're therefore not insulted by Ian Paisley Jr.'s remark that:

"P O'Neill obviously stands for Pinocchio O'Neill," he said.

An accusation that we can neither, as with the Pentagon reaction to their supposed secret plan to bomb Iran, confirm nor deny.

UPDATE Jan 23rd: A profile of the other, mysterious, P. O'Neill from the Irish Times (subs. req'd).