Thursday, February 4, 2010
On Channel 4 at the weekend I watched a drama about the life of the late Mo Mowlam - New Labour's first Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. A genuinely sad story about her fight against cancer though actress Julie Walters' accompanying press commentary that the Good Friday Agreement could not have happened without her prescence raises two particular question marks with regard to this political figure.
Firstly, I recall in her autobiography how one black-and-white picture included Mowlam, her family and grinning media mates "on the Queen's bed at Hillsborough Castle". Other text in the book also mentioned the kids racing around the state rooms in go-karts. Whatever one's opinion on royalty the fact remains that the Ulster Protestants who died during the 20th Century on military duty did so in no small measure out of loyalty to the throne as a tangible symbol. And indeed as part of a "nationhood" the equal of any other part of the United Kingdom - and in certain examples actually more so. From the Somme to Messines to Passchendaele to Saint-Quentin. From the beaches and skies of Normandy to the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. From the frontlines of the Imjin River battle in Korea to Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers being shot in the back while off-duty in Fermanagh and Armagh.
Secondly, I tend to question how retrospective politcal honour should fall in such substantial measure upon a figure now centrally reknowned for telling a Northern Irish political and religious leader to "fuck off". Even with due consideration of the relative merits and demerits of Ian Paisley's political career, this truly must be considered a jawdropping historic benchmark with regard to the depths to which our political culture has plummeted into utter degradation.