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And speaking of orthodoxy… June 29, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Uncategorized.

Here’s a fascinating report from Gerry Moriarty of the Irish Times which perhaps once more is demonstrative of how orthodoxies work.

In it he discusses the handshake between the Queen and McGuinness. And it’s all much as expected until we get to:

What keeps coming to mind is that Martin McGuinness was the leader of an organisation that killed Queen Elizabeth’s cousin and Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten in Mullaghmore in 1979 – at the same time murdering two teenage boys and an elderly woman.

Well, yes. But not one word about – for example – how those from McGuinnesses native Derry were murdered by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday seven years earlier and that the Queen was nominal head of that organisation. I’m not reaching for equivalence, or not exactly, between the two events. Both were in their own ways appalling, and there are differences. But it’s a remarkable reworking of the history of the past forty or fifty years to be able to mention one and not even slightly allude to the fact that the dynamic has worked in both directions. That’s not whataboutery. If one were to mention the meeting without any reference to the pain Republicans had inflicted and only contextualise it in light of the actions of British forces (let alone all others including Loyalism which yet further complicates the situation) the picture would be also skewed.


1. Oireachtas Retort - June 29, 2012

The past was in the past last May yet we were told never forget it by October.


WorldbyStorm - June 29, 2012

Strange, is it not?


Oireachtas Retort - June 29, 2012

Entirely predictable I would have thought.


WorldbyStorm - June 29, 2012

I’m being a little bit ironic 🙂

But yes, deeply predictable. Got to have short memories when workign for the orthodoxy!


2. smiffy - June 29, 2012

I think it’s a fair point. Obviously any chance to put the boot into Sinn Fein will be taken, both in the Irish media and across the water. But I think a bigger point is being missed.

There is, I think a difference, between shaking the hand of someone who had direct, operational, responsibility for the deaths of people you know, whether they be friends, relatives, whatever, and someone like the Queen who, frankly, has little or nothing to do with it, regardless of her nominal authority.

However, time and again, people in Northern Ireland, republican and loyalist (and neither), have been in the same position the Queen was in in shaking McGuinness’s hand, and haven’t been able to hop on a plane afterwards. McGuinness himself, and plenty of others, would have been in the same position. That’s the peace process, for better or worse. So when you see headlines saying things like ‘The Bravest Thing She’s Ever Done’, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth to those who have made bigger sacrifices, but aren’t feted in the same way.

Call it the Jerry McCabe syndrome.


Bartley - June 29, 2012

There is, I think a difference, between shaking the hand of someone who had direct, operational, responsibility for the deaths of people you know, whether they be friends, relatives, whatever, and someone like the Queen who, frankly, has little or nothing to do with it, regardless of her nominal authority.

Took the words out of my mouth. Her Majesty\’s Armed Forces of course arent actually personally directed by herself.

Call it the Jerry McCabe syndrome

But then you had to go and ruin it with that.


3. makedoanmend - June 30, 2012

As the nominal head of the UK/GB state, Liz could have spoken out about the entire situation in the 6 counties long ago. Silence reigned.

People who like the status quo, or any orthodoxy for that matter, always find excuses why those with any vestige of power representing an orthodoxy should be treated differently than those who oppose an existing orthodoxy.

The very act of the handshake is supposed to represent some shift or recognition of the altered relationship between the opposing sides. Yet, the same symbolic power is not supposed to exist prior to this singular act.

It’s all a sham – bullshite. Yet, it serves a purpose to keep the middlestat occupied and hunkered down in their cloistered fox holes. Any power base that the middlestat can cling onto that represents a sense of privilege over others needs to be maintained. Otherwise the utter powerlessness of the middlestat itself may be exposed.


4. WorldbyStorm - June 30, 2012

I take the point smiffy about the specific re the Queen herself never ordered people out. And all things being equal that would be fine. Only a few days ago I was suggesting that there’s a danger in over-reifying the handshake and indeed the Queen herself, but perhaps there’s a danger in ignoring her constitutional position within the UK. She is head of state (and an unelected one) who has both a symbolic religious role (as head of the CofE) and a symbolic military role as CinC of the British Armed Forces. Her offspring have served in those forces.

But I think it’s a matter of perception, isn’t it? And also power relationships – particularly as regards a minority within the political construct of the North who were always detached and pushed away from sharing power within it and in regard to the weight afforded to the monarchy by Unionism as a means of socio-political differentiation.

Of course the Queen doesn’t exercise executive authority – and there’s obviously a distinction to be made (indeed I did point out in my OP it wasn’t entirely the same), but as a representation, and a pretty direct one of the British state and British armed forces there’s a weight of meaning there which perhaps would have made it sensible for Moriarty to reflect upon the dual meanings implicit in the meeting (quite apart from the obvious one of that minority now standing at a level position with Unionism etc, etc in contrast to the past).

And I’d think makedoandmend and Oireachtas Retort are correct in that somehow this is meant to mean something and near enough nothing (see Patrick Smyth in today’s Irish Times for the latter).


smiffy - June 30, 2012

I don’t disagree at all. I was pointing to a separate aspect of the way this handshake has been represented: how it’s about personal stories (the Queen as Mountbatten’s cousin, McGuinness as IRA leader) in a way which eliminates the politics of what is essentially a political act.

Although I don’t think it’s that significant either. Perhaps as a symbol of what’s already the case in the power-sharing arrangement, rather than having any real significance in itself.

But even in the personal narrative driving some of the presentation of this (primarily, but not exclusively in the British tabloid media) there is a huge imbalance, a hierarchy of victims, as if the Queen is the only person to have known or been related to someone killed over the past 40 years, or that her loss is greater than that of others.


WorldbyStorm - July 1, 2012

Yeah, that’s very true re the personal stories aspect of it. And I think it’s a slgiht difference of emphasis between us, more than a disagreement. 🙂


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