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Murphys anti republican spleen passed sell by date

Saturday, 23rd August, 2014 6:27pm
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Murphys anti republican spleen passed sell by date


THE last hurrah of a political commentator is always gloomy. Yet pop culture eases the pain with comforting ditties such as ‘It’s hard to say goodbye to yesterday’ - which is a simple song on how to make


Ideal for observers of the body politic.

Indeed, the tune should be required humming for all those reluctant to face the fact that Time marches on, and that the commentator who parrots the same old ravings for yonks can come across in modern Ireland as talking arrant nonsense.

Happily, the golden-oldie advice contained in ‘It’s hard to say goodbye to yesterday’ does not apply to an exceptional political commentator, the redoubtable former Independent senator, legend and distinguished academic: octogenarian John A Murphy.

Not for him the nostalgia for a time when political life was better than it is now, and when Comrades Gilmore, Rabbitte, Garland, Lynch and Goulding were on their way up, and all was all right in the USSR world.

You see, Murphy continues to pack a punch. He can tell things as they are and still get in a ’dig’ at his archenemy, Sinn Fein. After all, the prof’s crafty political opinions were well and truly honed during his senatorial heyday, as the wise ol’ possums in the Workers Party might say.


And, of course, his many RTE talk shows and his Sindo columns that relentlessly criticised republicanism also contributed to the high esteem in which he was held.

Indeed he was the Establishment’s golden wonder, featuring regularly on super-important current affairs programmes. With great fluency he said what had to be said and, in doing that, he pleased all right thinking people who dreaded the rise of Sinn Fein.

So, when recently he issued a warning via the ‘Irish Times’ that a potential evil – a ‘provo’ inspired Armageddon – was hurtling down the tracks, we all expected the masses to sit up and pay attention. But they didn’t! They didn’t give a hoot about his prediction!

And what was the substance of Murphy’s dire warning? It was the very real possibility that ‘self-righteous, sanctimonious fantasists’ (devotees of the Bearded One, in other words), could well be in the next government! Wow! Sinn Féin in power. Deadly stuff indeed!

He painted a nightmarish picture of a horror devoutly not to be wished for, which if we were not careful would be visited on us all. ‘We should be very, very wary of Sinn Féin in government,’ he proclaimed.

According to the on-the-ball prof, the party’s worse sin was that it was an outfit that properly belonged to the 1940s, obsessed with the wickedness of partition and the promotion of Irish unity; a policy that was ‘pointless, regressive, destabilising and the very negation of the peace process’.

Needless to say, he also threw in the usual tuppance-worth concerning Gerry Adams’ murky ‘past’, and what he described as Sinn Féin’s ‘breathtaking revisionism’! But the real shock was the morale-sapping indifference that greeted his red alert.


And so the penny dropped with a loud clang that Murphy’s anti-republican spleen had long passed its sell-by date, even if his most recent outburst was evocative of the heady 1980s, Section 31, and the demonisation of republicans in the Sindo and RTE.

‘… The prof’s crafty political opinions were well and truly honed during his senatorial heyday, as the wise ol’ possums in the Workers

Party might say’

Adams replied to the verbal attack, admitting that he was somewhat gobsmacked at the accusation of Sinn Féin’s “breath-taking revisionism’, considering that his party was one of the architects of the peace process.

‘What is really breathtaking is the deficiency of the professor’s understanding of the most significant political development on this island since partition, namely the Belfast Agreement,’ commented Adams, rather sharply.

But the emeritus History Prof didn’t seem too peeved. He responded to Mr Adams by challenging the emeritus revolutionary to a public debate, ‘time and place to be arranged’.

Adams didn’t accept the invitation. Presumably he had more important things to do.


But the blast from the past from the ex-senator had an interesting spin-off. The imperious summons for Adams to engage in a debating duel reminded other people of their own requests to the senator to participate in a similar procedure with them; and that he wouldn’t.

Suddenly and strongly, they were whisked back to the 1980s, and to that era when critics sought from Murphy a clarification of his very contentious assertions in relation to the Northern conflict.

For instance, Criostóir de Baróid, human rights activist and founder of ‘Between’, the Northern Children’s’ holiday project, was one such person who wanted a public debate with Murphy. De Baróid had been alarmed at the senator’s claim that those campaigning for humanitarian reasons on behalf of the hunger striking H-Block prisoners were nothing but supporters of ‘the grisly and murderous campaign of the IRA’.

As someone who went in and out of Loyalist areas in the course of intercommunity work, de Baróid was of the opinion that hundreds of community workers in vulnerable areas were put at additional risk by Senator Murphy’s fiery statements.


What’s more, he called into question the professor’s objectivity and reliability in view of the fact that the professor admitted he had never been in the conflict areas.

De Baróid argued in many letters to the press that the awfulness of the H-Block conditions cried out for remedy, no matter what offences the prisoners were guilty of, and that a justice system relying on sectarian harassment, torture, extracted confessions and murder squads could not be justified in any circumstances.

As well, he and others strongly objected to the causal link being made between support for the prisoners and support for the IRA, and that support for the H-Block campaign could lead to the overthrow of Dáil Eireann!

But Senator Murphy refused to debate such points with the human rights man in a public forum.

Over and over again, NGOs working in the conflict zones pleaded with Murphy to see for himself what was happening. They too wanted him to agree to a public debate but they got nowhere. He stuck to his guns.

Now, it seems the boot is on the other foot. After almost thirty years he’s seen the light and is demanding a public debate on the rise of Sinn Fein, many of whose members suffered in the H-Blocks.


To seek a debate at this stage is a mystery! The fact of the matter is that Sinn Fein seems set for government, if the party so decides, and Murphy can do absolutely nothing about it.

In other words, it’s ‘sic transit gloria mundi’ for Sindo style Sinn Féin bashing! The professor’s very familiar anti-republican rant has become musty, old world and obsolete. And totally irrelevant! Sad, but inevitable, really!


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