Wigmore - September 1984: Conor Cruise O Brien, Paddy Power, RTE censorship

  • 31 August 1984
  • test

I SEE THAT Conor Cruise 0 'Brien has been sacked by the/Observetr. Of course it hasn't been described as a "sacking". "Mutual agreement", "parrting of the ways", all that guff. Reeminds me of the rock singer who left a band in Dublin and told Hot Press it had been on account of "musical differences". When I met him drunk (both of us) in the Baggot and asked him to elaborate he explained: "I was musical, they were different."

Bewilderingly enough, O'Brien

emerges from the row with little disscredit. He's out because he'd gotten up the nose of the appalling Tiny Rowland, boss of the Lonrho outfit which owns the paper. O'Brien might have survived had he had more backing from the hacks. But attempts to drum up a "Save Conor for the Nation" campaign foundered, not least because NUl chapel members recalled that one of his own first actions on taking over as editor-in-chief of the paper had been to sack the excellent Mary Holland because he disagreed with her reporting on the North.

It's a long old road, eh Cruiser?

* * * * *

FEARS THAT THE Pope's view Of world politics is influenced by inforrmation supplied by the CIA were allayed last month when it was reporrted that a book, of which Mr Gordon Thomas is joint author, claims that John Paul II receives a weekly CIA briefing.

* *' *" *" *"

THE IRISH TIMES (August 24) suggested that RTE's Martin Galvin piece underlined the case not for extending but for removing the resstrictions imposed under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act and offered as evidence the opinion that "Mr Galvin was hammered. He groped for answers, failed to find them and finally took refuge in rhetoric." And so he did. Bad show, Galvin. Four out of ten.

But what would the Irish Times' attitude have been if Mr Galvin had devastated the journalists questioning him with irrefutably logical replies, demonstrating a profound understandding of the subtleties of Northern poliitics and expressing himself with easy eloquence and a ready wit? What if Mr Galvin had won? Would the Irish Times still believe Section 3 I is a bad thing?

This notion - that censorship of RTE ought to be ended because, if it were, incisive RTE journalists could and would carve the Provos up - is based on no principle and is politically dishonest and intellectually disrepuutable. But I suppose it's as good as the Irish Times can come up with these days. It assumes that part of the purpose of covering Northern stories is to discredit the Republican Moveement and its supporters. It reduces debate over Section 31 to a disagreeement about what tactics might best achieve this object. It is an endorseement of and a declaration of intent to publish politically slanted journaalism as "news".

I'm not at all certain the Irish Times is right anyway about how the Provos would perform if the Section 31 restrictions were lifted. Provo spokespersons are fairly regularly interviewed on UTV and BBC N orrthern Ireland and, occasionally, on British network television and seem to manage as well as most. The Adams fellow, for example, has seen off one or two inquisitors with a fair degree of aplomb and panache. I really rather doubt that he would crumple into innarticulacy if confronted by Mr Charles Bird of Montrose.

* * * * *

MUCH HAS BEEN made of the fact that this Noraid crowd has a naive and distorted view of what is happening in the North.

True enough, some of them did seem a mite uninformed (although all of them had a fuller and more proofound understanding than Bruce Arnold). It is pleasant to report, howwever, that at least one member of the Noraid delegation left with a better appreciation of the rich complexities of Northern reality. Billetted in a Provo house in Derry, he demanded to know: "Hey, where's your picture of the Pope?" Having pondered this bizarre question for a few seconds his hostess replied with a statement often found on gable walls on the Shankill Road, sometimes in the acronymic version "FTP". The editor of the Irish Times will be pleased to learn that as a result of this pithy - and you have to admit non-sectarian - remark, this particular gent is now back in the Big Apple and much less likely than before to contribute his dollars to the struggle.

IT WAS ALWAYS on the cards that good old Tam Dalyell would catch up with Thatcher over the Belgrano. It is now established that Thatcher ordered an attack on a major Argentinelnaval target not because of any threat to the British' fleet in the south Atlantic but because of a perceived threat to her own political position.

Let's be clear on this one. This woman caused the deaths of 368 men, almost all of them young men in their teens or early twenties, for no reason other than that she thought this would win her votes. The luckier ones were blown instantly to smithereens. Others roasted to death in the bowels of the ship or drowned in freezing water.

When she arrives in Dublin for the EEC summit in November, will any Free State cabinet minister refuse to meet her on the ground that she uses violence to achieve her political ends?

This is a silly question.

And it's not my point at all. My point is that the controversy which has now erupted in Britain is not about whether she was right to sink the Belgrano but whether she lied to MPs about it afterwards.

As Peter Kellner put in the New Statesman last month: "Zapping the dagoes is one thing. Fibbing about it afterwards to Brits is another."

Funny tribe, the British. Personally I put it down to their diet.

* * * * *

WHAT THE POPE is really doing these days is taking a firm stand on contraception. His latest offering is that even married couples using the approved "natural" method of family planning shouldn't imagine that they are guaranteed no come-back from the Almighty. If that's what they've been thinking they could be in real soapy bubble.

The Papal thesis is that the sole acceptable purpose of sex is to make women pregnant. This is, of course, old hat. What was new to me was the elaboration that natural family planners having sex at a time when they have calculated the woman is unlikely to become pregnant must nevertheless keep in mind that making the woman pregnant remains the essential purpose of the activity and that, therefore ¨whatever about the physical buzz full, spiritual satisfaction is not availlable. And that to fail to acknowledge this fact is sinful.

Now this is very, very interesting.

It raises a host of fascinating questions which ought surely to be discussed at length in primary school religious knowledge classes. Like: How, when in the act of having sex, do you keep it in mind that the essential purpose of what you are doing is to procreate if you have timed matters to ensure that you do no such thing? Rhythmic muttering of relevant passages from Papal pronouncements? Short ejaculaations?

Even more intriguing: How is spiriitual satisfaction felt? And, since in this instance it is experienced simulltaneously and in association with physical, sexual satisfaction, how does one differentiate between the two pleasures, thus to be certain that each is separately present?

Perhaps spiritual satisfaction focuses on a particular, identifiable, part of the body? One night last week I had this strange, sort of pleasantly prickly feeling in the left armpit. I wonder now could that have been it. I suppose in the particular circumstances in which I found myself it couldn't have been. But is it that sort of thing? Is it maybe a question of the toes curling? If the toes curl, the white flag. If not, straight to confession.

The Bishops have a duty to explain this one in simple detail. Souls, after all, are at stake.

And another thing. This Pope, as we all know, is a down-to-earth class of a man. He wouldn't be thinking about these things in the abstract. He must spend a lot of his time thinkking about them in a practical way, so as to make his pronouncements accesssible to plain, ordinary people like you and even me. Is this wise? I ask myself. Are there not certain dangers here? I go on to consider, concerned as always for the well-being of others.

Then again, I suppose the Pope ha to be thinking these things through. having no direct experience to go on. Time was things were different. Popes could make pronouncements on issues in this area drawing on personal knowwledge which had been tested against reality. Those were the days you couldn't throw a stone within a mile of the Vatican without hitting one o~ the off-spring of the incum bent Ponntiff. But we will not d well on this, a some readers might find the subject offensive.

Man of the Month - Paddy Power

NO PROBLEM AT all selecting the winner of this month's much-coveted, vote-spinning Wigmore "Man of the Month" award.

Step right up Paddy Power, urbane Fianna Fail TD for Kildare, gifted tenor and member of the GAA. In the summer of 1982 Mr Power, then Minister for Defence, became the first member of any government in western Europe publicly to criticise the Thattcher regime for the sinking of the Belgrano and to allege at a meeting in his constituency that Britain had now become the aggressor. He was foullmouthed by Fine Gaelers, lashed by Labourites, excoriated by editorialisers, castigated by columnists, and even publicly pillorised by members of his own party.

Now, as Thatcher's lies begin to fray, it can clearly be seen that Paddy got it right and the rest of them got it wrong. It matters not a hoot that he may have been motivated more by mistrust of and antipathy to the British than by any objective consideeration of right and wrong. Mistrust of and antipathy to the British when they are engaged in an imperialist adventure is right.

Prophet in own land, clear-sighted and courageous opponent of coloniaalism everywhere, and now Wigmore Man of the Month' Let's hear it for Paddy Power!