In our new post-Troubles dispensation, Norn Iron politics is coming into synch with the norm in other countries. That is to say, politics is increasingly indistinguishable from showbiz – Schwarzenegger and Dana prove the point in a literal sense, but the histrionics of a Clinton or Mr Tony, or the entire career of Rankin’ Dave Cameron, can also be taken as examples. In this paradigm, Big Ian would be our answer to Jerry Lee Lewis, the original and best, a one-off who can’t possibly be replicated. And thank the Lord for that.
But where Jerry Lee Lewis appears, Liberace cannot be far behind. Step forward Strangford MLA Dave McNarry, a man who has spent a remarkably long time in unionist politics to remarkably little effect. Dave is OUP chief whip in the Assembly and as such a key player in Sir Reggie’s doomed strategy of trying to out-Paisley Paisley. Dave is also, readers will be cheered to learn, deputy chair of the Stormont culture committee. This makes him third in the North’s cultural hierarchy, behind the towering intellects of the minister, Lisburn ‘City’ Council leader Edwin Poots, and the committee chair, Tyrone GAA man Barry McElduff. The discussions between these characters are so high-flown as to give the observer nosebleeds.
Anyway, in his cultural capacity Dave has penned a missive to the News Letter on the subject of the Acht Gaeilge. Why is this like Liberace? Because reading the letter, one gets an overwhelming sense of having come across a bad cover version of the DUP of the early nineties, complete with copious references to that mythical beast the “pan-nationalist front”. Such a farrago of paranoia is a rare treat.
Dave refers to a vote on the culture committee where all the PSF and SDLP reps raised their hands for the Acht Gaeilge. Dave sees this as evidence of a sinister plot. It clearly doesn’t occur to him that, since both parties’ stated policy is in favour of the Acht Gaeilge, one might have expected them to vote this way.
“Seeing is believing and believe me, what I saw across the table from both Sinn Fein and SDLP members has given great cause for alarm. Witnessing republicans and so-called constitutional nationalists resurrecting a pan-nationalist front and watching a display of defiant triumphalism was a setback, as was their evident sectarian attitude, determined at all costs to push the Irish language down unionist throats,” arsa Dáithí.
Dave also finds it sinister that Sinn Féin Nua’s Caitríona Ruane is minister for education, apparently believing that she has the superhuman ability to turn Prod schoolchildren into Gaeilgeoirí overnight. Dave further warns the Prods that they “risk waking up to find the Irish language taking over your lives in both permanent and prominent manifestations of visible displays unfolding before your eyes”. By this Dave seems to be referring to things such as bilingual road signs. Perhaps he should have a word with his party colleague, Laird Laird, who has spoken in favour of Ulster-Scots signage across the whole of Ireland, or indeed take into consideration the signage and letterheading policy of Airds Cooncil in his own constituency.
Dear God. You know, nobody is proposing that Prods be forced to speak Irish. In fact, some unionist assemblymen struggle to communicate as Béarla – Dave is more articulate than most, but he still retains that unmistakable streak of paranoia that results from Orangeman’s X-ray vision being able to discern dastardly plots everywhere.