More people than I expected have joined in the open celebration of her end. I had anticipated a more muted response and not the unbridled expressions of delight that have been on display. I did not account for so many people having been so hurt and angered by her cruelty that they have chosen to dispense with the polite silence that often greets the death of characters never really warmed to.
If joyous relief is what people feel, it is better that we all see it rather than have it censored merely to avoid offence. There is no reason why the political class should be spared knowledge of how molten anger is forged in the furnace of greed and austerity where money is worshiped and people whipped. Rather than wax outraged at the celebratory mood the commentariat should explore the very real hurt that unleashes such powerful emotions. The crime here lies not in the celebrations but in the callousness that people now feel freed from.
As Hugo Young wrote in the Guardian way back in 2003 just days before his own death, Thatcher insidiously introduced:
a mood of tolerated harshness ... Everything was justified as long as it made money ... the sense of community evaporated. There turned out to be no such thing as society ... idolising wealth as the only measure of virtue, Brits became more unpleasant to be with. This regrettable transformation was blessed by a leader who probably did not know it was happening because she didn't care if it happened or not.
Now people don’t care about her no longer happening.
It has been revealing to watch the response of Sinn Fein. I suppose if the party thought it could get away with it there would have been party luminaries leading a black flag procession from Sevastopol Street to the City Hall chanting ‘no welfare for traitors.’ Having rehabilitated ‘Elizabrit’ in the minds of its own supporters my eyebrows would hardly have raised had An Phoblacht tried the old ‘Marvellous Margaret’ line.
Yet, somewhat out of tune with the mood music of the peace process, the language from the party has been fairly raucous. Martin McGuinness alone seems uncomfortable with the stridency, hitting out at celebratory mood. Conscious of his junior role as a micro minister in the North’s British administrative structure he is fearful of being seen to approve the politics of the streets and risk annoying his current comrades. ‘Right honourable friend’ rather than ‘lowlife scumbag’ is the language of the institution and with which he is now comfortable.
Party president Gerry Adams, not slow these days, now that he has moved south of the partition line, to poke and prod unionist sentiment, has slammed Thatcher for causing harm. He of course never caused any and spent the past 40 years cloistered in Clonard Monastery praying for peace.
To me there was never that much to choose between either Thatcher or Adams. Both, consumed by a lust for power, lacked empathy or compassion and left many broken victims in the debris scattered by their trail of destruction. In the cauldron of the H Blocks where powerful enduring emotions were forged the hunger strikers defeated Thatcher and Adams defeated the hunger strikers, something that the unionists for all their lauding of her for facing down ‘terrorism’ have now come to acknowledge. Ironically, while he sought to kill her she sought to keep him alive, albeit only only to have him deliver the head of her sworn enemy on a plate.
One crucial difference however that does stand out is that Thatcher made it to the top of both the Conservative Party and British society, something no woman ever managed in respect of the Provisional IRA army council or its chief of staff spot. Brookborough’s attitude to Catholics was mirrored in Adams’ attitude to women: not one about the place.