Spy Wednesday

Tonight's article is a spoof piece that featured two years ago. Today being Spy Wednesday makes it timely to run it again. Enjoy.

To wake up a man from a nightmare is compassion. - Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
I remember drifting off to sleep and then it was an alternative
universe. Like a flip between worlds I had once read about in a novel by
Peter Straub and Stephen King. I was back in Sinn Fein as the party
gathered at the assembly point for the Easter commemoration. In my dream
it was at Divis Tower and not the usual venue, Beechmount. I didn’t feel
comfortable being back in the fold but like many dreams, breaching the
walls of sleep was the only exit. I couldn’t reach the elusive escape
hatch and was condemned to march the Falls Road until wakefulness
released me. My attempts to run away were accompanied by the slow motion
that always holds you in a dream despite your best efforts to pull away
from it.

The Easter Parade had been moved from Sunday to the Wednesday before.
When I asked the man beside me why this was so, he looked at me with
horror as if a question was a contagious illness which might infect him
and then he might go around asking questions too. He shuffled off
dragging his partner by the hand. I saw someone I took to be an official
or marshal. His overbearing demeanour suggested he could be nothing
else. I put the question to him. For my troubles I received a look which
suggested I was plain stupid. When I let my tongue hang out and turned
my palms upward he concluded that I was pretty much that and proceeded
to give me a ‘mo chara’ lecture in tones that were insultingly
paternalistic; the party had to be flexible, Sunday was not the only day
the actual fighting in Dublin had taken place. Did it take place on
Sunday at all I inquired only to be ignored. He continued by explaining
that other days had to be taken into consideration as well if we were to
avoid having a hierarchy of days. I explained as best I could that if we
were marching the Wednesday after Easter I could buy into this but the
Wednesday before, no fighting happened that day. ‘But they were planning
it,’ he assured me. ‘You don’t think it came out of thin air. And you
would not want to be looking down your nose at those who laid the ground
work and valuing only those who took to the field. Read your history mo
chara.’ He mumbled something about old habits dying hard, a thinly
veiled reference to my long running differences with the party. It was
clear he felt I should be grateful at being back among the true
believers even though I did not truly believe. Penance should have been
my lot.

My persistence wouldn’t surrender as easily as some other things in life
so I pointed out that it wasn’t just any Wednesday, this was Spy
Wednesday. ‘That’s a negative way of describing it. We look at it as
Patriot Wednesday.’ Not quite ready to buy into that I pressed on. ‘What
about marching on Good Friday then?’ Politically and ideologically we
might have drawn back a bit from Easter Sunday but only by two days not
four. The SDLP, I was informed, march on that day. Besides, ‘they made
that agreement on Good Friday not us. Fair’s fair and all that.’ I
argued that the SDLP never march. He told me it was April so there was
little point in us discussing March.

Fair enough. While there was something not just right about it, I
couldn’t think of a way of dealing with it and fell into line, just like
everybody else, and felt the most compelling urge to nod my head and
walk in a somnambulant state. I was handed a little bannerette with a
photo of Caoimhin O Caolain on it and told to wave it at the crowds as I
was passing. Mindful that there might be children watching who I did not
want to frighten I thrust it into my pocket as soon as the marshal had
turned his back.

Having fallen in we slowly shuffled up the road. Try as I might it was
hard to keep step, not being good at these things. Besides, the road had
changed. Whereas during my waking hours, there was no SDLP office on the
Falls Road near the Falls swimming centre, in my dream road the first
building we approached after the pool was called Alex Atwood House. As
we passed we let out a collective roar of ‘Stoops.’ It just came up from
the pit of my stomach. Involuntarily it was racing from my lips before I
knew it. Those inside the premise stuck their tongues out at us and
laughed derisorily.

Next in line was the Workers’ Party headquarters which seem to have been
uprooted from the Springfield Road and placed on its new founds. I was
amazed to see what I thought was a photo of Gerry Adams hanging on it
but as we got closer I realised it was Des O’Hagan. The beard and
glasses had momentarily deceived me. When we reached it we howled
‘Sticks’. They screamed ‘Stormont forever’ back at us. The stewards
instructed us to shout ‘up Stormont’, it being more transitional
sounding than ‘Stormont forever.’ The logic was what goes up must come
down; nothing lasts forever, just a phase in the struggle.

At the Sinn Fein office at the comer of Thiepval Street a crowd had
gathered to wave at us. As we approached they seemed to be shouting
something about caps. I had none on so I took it to be the berets that
the colour party members were wearing. As we pulled up level with them I
began to wave and shout ‘friends.’ I didn’t recognise them as any
friends that I knew but they were there for us. They were waving at us
and I could now make out what they were shouting: ‘up the Scaps.’ That
was it; in the S hierarchy we were at the bottom, the Scaps, lower
placed than even the Sticks or the Stoops. My face was red. What would
my kids think? How could I sing them ballads of ‘brave Scappaticci’?
Sticks, Stoops and Scaps. This was as good as it got.

At Northumberland Street, which was now positioned up the road rather
than closer to the bottom, there was a wall mural of Iris the Virus
Robinson. She was partially concealed in undergrowth and surrounded by
gravestones upon which she seemed to sneer. Emblazoned above her image
were the words ‘First Squaw - Walking Eagle.’ On the headstones at her
feet were inscribed the words ‘God sent me to hell for being gay.’ On
her head was Native American head dress.

While we looked on it lovingly a car pulled up with two former blanket
men in it. Someone shouted ‘traitors’ and we tried pulling them from the
vehicle. I wanted to run away but couldn’t. My legs had a dream powered
life of their own.‘Take them up to Casement and drop them from the wall’
a voice howled. The car the men were in was attacked by the crowd
wielding car braces and poles. Then from her mural Iris the Virus
floated into our midst, wagged a disapproving finger, and said ‘not in
this town, you don’t. Second class citizens shall show each other mutual
respect. It is our job to humiliate you. ’ My instinct was to rebel
against this insult. ‘Hush,’ came a voice. ‘That’s the boss’s wife. Do
as she says.’ So used was everyone to behaving deferentially and with
blind obedience to authority that emanated from the house on the hill
that we immediately ceased our attack on the two former blanket men and
fell back into the ranks. The Virus drifted back in amongst the
tombstones. With her out of earshot some in the parade grew rebellious.
An American tourist walking in the parade asked ‘why is she called
Walking Eagle?’ A woman to my rear said in a broad Belfast accent,
‘because she is so full of crap she can’t fly.’

Up the Falls and at the bottom of the Whiterock Road we turned right and
into the City Cemetery. But we didn’t end up here on any previous
occasion I thought. Still, we pressed on until we stopped at the grave
of Denis Donaldson. We had been told a famous actor who had played the
role of an Irish hero would be giving the oration. Unusual, but for that
reason, novel. Brad Pitt or Liam Neeson, perhaps. Both had played senior
roles in films about Irish resistance icons. At the graveside, Jim
Sturgess was announced as the guest speaker. ‘But it can’t be’ I
protested, ‘he is acting Marty McGartland in Fifty Dead Men Walking.’ As
if that wasn’t difficult enough, when he began reading the role of
honour I wanted to join Walking Eagle behind one of her headstones.

Patriot Franko Hegarty
Patriot Maurice Gilvary
Patriot Peter Valente
Patriot Joe Fenton …

And on it went. When the colour party lowered its flags I heard one of
those flag bearers say ‘too fast Freddie.’ Whoever Freddie happened to
be, his reply was ‘alright Sandy.’ A steward noticing my concern said
‘ah, Scappaticci and Lynch; they are only water-carriers.’ But they were
carrying the national flag. ‘Everybody can change Anthony. One man’s
traitor is another man’s patriot.’

Unsure I could continue with this I nevertheless was sucked back into
position and marched out of the cemetery. Someone said we were now for
Milltown. At last I thought, the escape from this nightmare. It would
all fall into place and this madness would be behind us. As we
approached the front of the cemetery I could see the colour party
slowing down but instead of turning into Milltown it wheeled to the
right to begin the journey back down the Falls Road. By this time those
in front of us had begun rhythmically hoisting their left hands and
pointing with index fingers towards the republican plot, chanting
‘they’re all traitors over there.’ Like a Mexican wave it spread right
down to where I was. My hand jerked up in spite of myself and I too
began screaming. The anonymous pressure of the group had done its work.

As we passed the Falls Park on our journey back down a PSNI landrover
pulled out in front of us. Two cops alighted, and took position at
either side of the road, butts of their automatic rifles resting firmly
in the crook of their arms. Spontaneously the parade gave a clench fist
salute and as one roared ‘victory to the peelers.’

That was it. I pushed my feet hard against the ground and launched
myself as far into the air as I could, coming up through the layers of
sleep and making my way to consciousness, my heart racing and breath

A dream. Nothing like that could ever happen in real life. Sinn Fein
would never encourage touts and label republicans traitors. A dream,
that’s all it was. Now, back to the real word where Ireland will be
united by 2014.


  1. That wasnt a dream MO CARA! that was a vision, have you ever thought of going into religon ,not the true Pastafarian one but a money making venture thats christian based ,their into visions,youd make a mint.

  2. A bit of the George Orwell in there Mackers.
    Great piece as usual. Must have been a fcuking nightmare though back in the fold, boiled in oil would be preferable.

  3. Well, maybe not 'til 2016? (Gerry's busy across the border making plans.)

  4. Marty,

    it was a nightmare!


    I always loved Orwell. It was Gerry Kelly who started me reading him. It is a serious compliment to be likened to him even in the smallest of ways.He was such a good writer.

  5. LOL very good Mackers...An nightmare indeed!

    In my dream there's four fields all owned by a fat guy called Banks.

    In one of these fields there's a flock of sheep being herded by several sheep dogs, not those cute collie dogs but rottweilers. The most dominant among them is called Big Bob.

    The rottweilers are barking a lot and chasing the sheep around in circles. They're going nowhere, just around in circles.

    Two farmers, Marty and Gerry, are leaning on a fence watching the goings on. Marty's on the northern side of the fence and Gerry's on the southern side.

    "That's a fine flock of sheep we have there Gerry. Oul Bob and the rottweilers are are doing a grand job keeping them in line."

    "Indeed he is, Marty. As long as you keep him and the other rottweilers well fed they'll bark all day. We tell the sheep dogs what to do and they bark at the sheep and they all seem happy with that."

    "What about the sheep on your side of the fence Gerry, they don't seem to need much barking at?"

    "Ach sure the fools think they can bark at Mr Banks and get the fields back if they bark enough."

    "Fur feck sake Gerry sure sheep don't bark they baa!"

    "I know that but it keeps them occupied while I get to sit on the fence all day doing nothing."

    "It's a fine life alright Gerry, move over, while I sit my arse up there beside you."

  6. Dixie,
    another brilliant piece of satire.
    I can just visualise michaelhenry being nudged into line by big Bob.

  7. Dixie,

    brilliant. And it is so easy to visualise.


  9. Mackers,
    You could visualise michaelhenry in both pieces.
    In your piece he would blissfully unaware that anything was out of step, because Sinn Fein told him so.
    In the Dixies piece, he could be head butted all round the field by the rottweiller Storey over his antic in Cookstown and still think, what a great party.

  10. good timing
    Adams on tv saying there is no IRA today.
    Wonder if he was 'topped' would some violent retribution be forthcoming? And, who would do it?
    Things can only degenerate further the more successful Republicans become at exposing him.
    Sad thing is, the lies and deciet have led to all this. Unionists must be dreaming of the good old days once more with the 100% employment in the security sector if it all goes apeshit.

  11. One big difference between Orwell and McIntyre, I can see. Orwell wrote novels...

  12. Anthony,

    I had written a comment on your Spy Wednesday vignette a few nights ago, but my sister borrowed my laptop (to go on Chatroulette, it turns out!) and the comment was lost. Anyway, it is a good piece; it reminded me of Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman - have you read it?

  13. Alfie,

    It was written two years ago and was carried on TPQ then. I just threw it up again because of the day that was in it. I haven't read anything by Flann O'Brien at all.

  14. Alfie,

    I have finished reading The Poor Mouth and am halfway through The Third Policeman. Strange writer

  15. Anthony,

    I have not read "The Poor Mouth", but I loved "The Third Policeman". I laughed out loud so many times while reading it. I've also read "The Dalkey Archive", which was bizarrely entertaining as well. Apparently the book "At Swim Two Birds" is Flann O'Brien's masterpiece, but I haven't read it yet.

  16. Spy Wednesday


    I found the Third Policeman a chore. I still think about it but I would never describe it as an enjoyable read. I actually thought it had great potential at the start and then it descended into farce, only making sense at the end. The Poor Mouth was very funny. I will read At Swim Two Birds at some stage. I never read him until you suggested and then my wife got them from the library for me.

  17. A good read. It's now 2016 what do you think?

  18. Good read. It's now 2016 what do you think?

  19. there is even more reason to think the Kafkaesque atmosphere is not for dispersing anytime soon