They’re conversations people have every day, totally ubiquitous and banal. Then an appointed one pronounces upon the matter the public discuss every day, the media reacts and the people are divided, overjoyed or incandescent.
It happened most recently with James Galway. It also happened recently with Waterford born Louise Richardson, the next vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford. She recently said that the United States over-reacted to 9/11. Respondents from across America rained criticism on her.
Reference James Galway and Richardson, what is strange is the prominence we give the words of celebrities and public figures. They talk about something people talk about every day, but their words reach a prominence that touches and rocks a national audience. They are opinions only, just gilded.
In 2009 the Trinity alumnus Louise Richardson spoke to the FT after the publication of her book, ‘What Terrorists Want.’
It was a line from her book’s introduction that launched debate back then. Expressing the sentiment of her 14 year old self following Bloody Sunday, Catholic educated Louise Richardson wrote:
“I’d have joined the IRA in a heartbeat.”
Contrast this with another public figure, Ballymena born actor James Nesbitt who said about the monstrous and murderous event:
“I find it really hard to talk about actually. (Bloody Sunday) marked the first time I really began to look at where I came from. What had happened to the country I was so proud of?”
Compare the reaction of Nesbitt with Richardson. His was one of regret and shame, hers was outrage and retribution.
We’re all born on this island, almost all are in tune with being Irish, unionists too. Yet from the same geographical starting point our opinions are so radically opposite and incompatible.
Growing up I didn’t hear about Bloody Sunday. Outrage was reserved for IRA atrocities.
Retrospective Troubles rage generally follows this pattern, a one sided analysis that sees one murder as noble or necessary, the other as the act of a homicidal maniac.
I’ve said before it before on this website, it takes serious tribalism and self-blinding to see that one side erred irredeemably and that the other side performed impeccably. I prefer to now denounce all killings (graphic here) as Louise Richardson said as “utterly and incontrovertibly wrong.”