To rousing cheers all around, I’ll not be bothering with a full Gail Walker Watch this week. I read Gail’s column – a piece on the death of a pensioner and what that says about the decline of close-knit communities, some slagging of Dawn French and David Shayler – and a profound sense of ennui came upon me. Much more of this, and I may lose the will to live.
I do however want to comment on one issue that Gail has a bit of a giggle about, namely the Aer Lingus relocation. You can hardly be unaware that Aer Lingus is setting up its UK hub in Belfast, which means dropping London-Shannon flights. The political and business establishment up here – especially those who are gung-ho for the “all-island economy” – are rather pleased at this. The peasantry of Shannon are rather less charmed at business heading to the Black North.
The story has been getting big play on the RTÉ news for days on end. To listen to the locals, you would believe that children will be going barefoot in Shannon if the London route is scrapped. Local TDs and councillors are up in arms. Prominent among these is Defence Minister Willie O’Dea, a member of the cabinet that privatised Aer Lingus a couple of years back. Does Willie sense a touch of irony in the situation? If so, he’s keeping it to himself.
The Catholic and Protestant bishops are also speaking out against the relocation. And, just to add the final Ionesco touch, enter ebullient Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, wielding his 25% stake in Aer Lingus like a blunt instrument and threatening to block the move. Say what you like about O’Leary, he never lets the opportunity for a populist gesture pass him by.
In related news, the discrepancy in pay between North and South has led to strike threats from the pilots. These unlikely union militants won’t settle for anything less than seventy grand plus benefits. I am a good bit more sympathetic to the workers represented by my old comrade Jimmy Kelly of Unite, who are on a substantially lower rate than the pilots and who do have a legitimate gripe about equal pay and conditions.
But the whole affair puts me in mind of the old satirical ballad:
God save the greater part of Ireland!
Three quarters of a nation once again!
Yes, it seems that 26-county nationalism is alive and well, and, the peace process notwithstanding, there is still a considerable body of southern opinion that would be quite happy to see us float off into the Atlantic.
Rud eile: I was startled to see no less than Bobby Friction discussing Indian independence on Newsnight. But startled in a good way – he was just as good a panellist as his record on the wireless would suggest. It was noticeable, too, that Kirsty introduced him by his Punjabi name, for the benefit of those of us who may have thought Bobby Friction was his real name. Nice to see our main man on, though. News and current affairs going trendy might not be such a bad prospect if it means more Friction on the box.