Mary Kelly: Southerners please take note – we nordies live in Ireland too

The continuing furore over what happened to Paul Quinn and the brave campaign of his family to clear his name is a reminder that the IRA and its past activities still casts a long shadow over Sinn Féin

DUP leader Arlene Foster fills Late Late host Ryan Tubridy in on the demographics of his show's viewing audience last weekend

I DON’T want to burst into a chorus of Take It Down From The Mast... etc but there are definitely moments when us nordies have to choke back our annoyance when we hear some utterances from our southern friends.

There was one such moment when Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin scolded Mary Lou McDonald for “coming down here” to talk about lowering the pension age. There was another during Arlene Foster’s much praised appearance on The Late Late Show when host Ryan Tubridy (aka Henry Kelly’s lovechild) talked about the show’s audience in the south and had to be reminded by the DUP leader that a lot of people in the north watch too. To quote Seamus Heaney in a different context… "We lived there too."

I sometimes wonder if there’s a little antipathy towards the north mixed up in the attitude of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil when they set their face against going into government with Sinn Féin, even though, with supreme hypocrisy, they both think it is essential that unionists do so in the north.

It’ll be interesting to see if the party’s surge in opinion polls, which put it ahead of both FG and FF, will translate into votes.

Up here (as Micheál might say), pollsters would say that support for the DUP and Sinn Féin was often underestimated because respondents didn’t like admitting to it when questioned but gave them their votes in the privacy of the polling booth.

As RTÉ has learned to its cost, Sinn Féin’s exclusion from the leaders debate proved to be untenable and may even have given the party a sympathy boost. Give or take a wobble on her party’s attitude to the Special Criminal Court, and visible squirming over Conor Murphy’s comments about IRA murder victim Paul Quinn, she did well enough.

But the continuing furore over what happened to Paul Quinn and the brave campaign of his family to clear his name is a reminder that the IRA and its past activities still casts a long shadow over Sinn Féin, including its ceasefire generation leaders. Can they ever escape it? The people, as always, will be the judge.

* * *

THE walkout of lobby journalists after Number 10 excluded “unfriendly” media was a welcome gesture of solidarity against increasingly Trumpian tactics of Johnson and his team.

He’s already having his ministers boycotting Radio 4’s Today programme and ITV’s breakfast show as well as having his acolytes film him making unchallenged statements rather than have TV crews in. This sort of anti-democratic behaviour should be called out and I hope the political journalists continue to show solidarity on this.

Way back, a certain lord mayor (OK, it was Herbie Ditty) took umbrage at the coverage of Belfast City Council in Jim McDowell’s Dome of Delight columns for this newspaper. So he barred him from entering the mayoral parlour for the usual post-monthly meeting drinks.

Naturally the rest of us hacks refused to go in if Jim wasn’t invited. I was eight months pregnant at the time so Jim later wrote that it may have been the first time an unborn child took part in a walkout.

* * *

I ENJOYED that clip that went viral of former BBC reporter Diane Harron showing Blue Peter’s Valerie Singleton round the security checkpoints and bombed-out shops in Troubles-torn Belfast.

There was more than a touch of AbFab about the pair in their furs and Afghan coats, but it was curious to recall how normal that routine became. I remember walking through a checkpoint on Donegall Place behind a punk girl sporting a magnificent Mohican. She duly proffered the kettle she was using as her handbag to be searched. The look on the face of the woman soldier was a joy to behold.


* * *

I GO to the cinema regularly – or the pictures, as I prefer to say. I still get irked at people opening rattly sweet papers or who feel the need to chomp their way through popcorn in containers as big as a skip. But being vertically challenged, my latest bête noire is the person sitting in front wearing their hair in a topknot. And it can be either gender.

It must have been the same in the beehive era but there I was last week, craning behind a woman with hair done up like two giant walnut whips on top of the other. Still, it could’ve been worse. At least the film didn’t have subtitles.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access