THREE amigos or three stooges? That’s the conundrum facing our Taoiseach, Vlad the Impaler, as he warns former Workers’ Party gent, John Halligan, the Rt Hon Shane Ross and Leftist Finian McGrath of the ‘beastly’ things that might happen to them should they persist with their plan of visiting North Korea. They hope to meet its head-banger-president Kim Jung-un, and after convivial talks bring peace and reconciliation to North Korea, the world and mankind.
The eminent mini-ministers want to ‘stall’ growing tensions because they believe that the Madman of the Western World, Donald Trump, might well succeed in blowing us all up in the absence of coherent dialogue. Hence the need to talk!
And no better buckos to initiate a discussion intended to produce an agreement than the Mini-minister for Training and Skills, Mr Halligan and his conscientious chums.
For instance, last year, Mr Halligan described Trump as nuts, racist, extreme right wing, a clown with no knowledge of foreign affairs, dangerous and … wait for it … an asshole. It was an assessment of penetrating mental discernment that helped endear the Waterford man to the Dictator-President of North Korea.
Certainly, as matters stand, Mini-minister Mr Halligan and President Kim Jung-un have a lot in common when it comes to sharing an opinion regarding the President of America and are likely to get-on like a nuked house on fire!
But Simon Coveney’s Foreign Affairs Department is very apprehensive as to what the lads might say ‘given the sensitivities involved.’ One gets the impression that he would like to tell the wannabe peacemakers to disappear, take a running jump, and to accept that international diplomacy isn’t done by dropping in for an auld chat!
Playing on his mind, perhaps, is his government’s 100% support for sanctions against North Korea.
And, of course, also disturbing is Halligan’s pronouncement that he and the mates would be representing a country that was ‘highly respected around the world for its neutrality.’ No doubt that grated on Coveney’s refined political sensitivities, as did the comment from Roger Cole of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance about welcoming Halligan’s aim to ‘rekindle Irish neutrality.’ Cole declared that it was incumbent on Coveney ‘to support the emergence of not just an independent voice but actual action for world peace.’
The fact of the matter is that Coveney, Varadkar and Fine Gael have turned Irish neutrality into a joke, thanks to their rejection of a Sinn Féin Bill that would have enshrined neutrality in the Constitution. Consequently, should Kim Jung-un ever press the Armageddon button, it’s possible that he’ll recall Minister Halligan’s comments on Ireland’s ‘neutrality’ and the fraudulence of an Irish government that perpetrated a gross untruth.
Fianna Fáil scoffing
Which doesn’t mean that the visit by the Three Musketeers is without merit. Certainly not! With the world on the edge of nuclear war, anything that promotes peace is to be welcomed. In contrast, whereas Halligan’s pastoral visitation to North Korea bemuses the Irish public, Labour and Fianna Fáil’s response to his effort at peacemaking is despicable.
Survivors from Labour’s Cloth Cap Brigade openly laughed at Halligan and said it was ‘another of his attention seeking ideas.’ Micheál Martin’s gang jeered that ‘the visit was a pilgrimage for Halligan, a former Workers’ Party member’ – a reference to the close military connection that once existed between the ‘Sticks’ (Workers Party-Democratic Left) and North Korea.
Curious too was Varadkar’s choice of words when he reminded Halligan of the horrors that could await him in North Korea: ‘beastly things might happen to you,’ he warned.
Now, the word ‘beastly’ has its origins in Middle English (1175-1225) and refers to something that is abominable, foul and unrestrained. In that sense, it was an interesting word to use.
Billy Bunter language
However, astute readers of early 20th century children’s literature would see the word as pure Billy Bunter terminology, as would today’s British upper crust which tends to weaken the ‘beastly’ bit by introducing the adverb ‘awfully’ – as in “I say, Nigel is awfully beastly at dancing the tango, isn’t he?’
Question is, was Varadkar – a member of an elite socio-economic group that has the highest status in Irish society – having a sly dig at the ‘awfully’ working class Halligan? Why did he employ the obscure word ‘beastly’ when he could have used “brutal”, or the much more familiar (in this country) ‘shaggin’ terrible,’ when trying to put the frighteners on his colleague?
Strange, like! Or is it that at heart Varadkar is an awfully beastly snob?
Maybe there’s another explanation: that every time Varadkar hears mention of North Korea, he groans in distress as the stories of Workers Party-Democratic Left-Official IRA and North Korea come flooding back. That was in 1988: at a time the gunmen’s political wing had seven elected TDs in the Dáil and enjoyed an especially close working relationship with Fine Gael.
As is known, Official IRA members received military training in North Korea (some details of the bizarre connection are mentioned in Hanley’s ‘The Lost Revolution – the story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party’ and in John Sweeney’s ‘North Korea Undercover: Inside the World’s Most Secret State’).
Grew heartily tired
Told they were being trained as an elite assassination squad to be used when not bank robbing, or engaged in illegal fundraising to help pay for the Workers Party, the Official IRA chaps showed their appreciation to then dictator President Kim Il Sung by presenting him with a 100-year-old piece of Belleek porcelain. They stole it in Belfast for their visit.
The ‘revolutionaries’ were taught bomb-making, the art of kidnapping and the best way to slit a person’s throat. They dressed in the uniform of officers of the Korean People’s Army and attended lectures on the extraordinary achievements of the North Korean President.
But they were not happy campers, although they enjoyed shooting with assault rifles, pistols, machine guns; and making and detonating bombs. Grossly unfit to cope with the rigours of their training, such as running around the parade ground at six in the morning, they demanded to be sent home.
Eventually the North Koreans acceded to their request, having grown heartily tired of the freedom fighters’ preference for chasing comrade-ladies around the barracks, complaining about the grub and fighting among themselves.
But not before North Korean officials took them to a children’s playground, ordered them to sit on a merry-go-round with their guns, and then filmed the heroes in a situation of excruciating embarrassment astride plastic donkeys and giraffes. They told them the pics would be released to the Irish public if they complained about the hard time they had in the North Korean paradise.
It is extremely unlikely that Minister Halligan will revisit that particular episode of international solidarity. That aside, we wish him well in his peace efforts.