Anthony McIntyre savours a prize winning moment.
Patrick Radden Keefe's atmospherically haunting book, Say Nothing, has won the Orwell Prize 2019 for literature. It is an amazing achievement, coming as it does at a time when the bore factor that keeps step with the pity party that the peace process has long descended into, has all but suffocated interest in the politics of the North. Nothing guaranteed to work quicker for inducing first a yawn then a deep sleep than the plaintive moan that the peace process is in crisis … again.
Judge Ted Hodgkinson in his assessment of Say Nothing offered this:
This haunting and timely portrait of the Troubles opens with the disappearance of a mother of ten and radiates outwards to encompass the entire conflict, giving voice to characters and stories often shrouded in silence, and leaving an indelible and nuanced impression of the human cost of this unstable chapter of history.
The award of such a prestigious prize will not have gone unnoticed in a part of Louth where currently a predatory eye is being cast over Phoenix Park with a view to transforming the presidential residence into the Aras hole of Ireland in 2025. The idea that there is a serpentine-slithering in that direction is not as far fetched as it once seemed.
One columnist suggested that:
As long as Adams might be a candidate, anyone who cares about protecting the presidency should fight this referendum to prevent him getting to the Aras.
All of it is contingent on the predator getting his ducks in order, with people sufficiently bullied in the customary manner into silent acquiescence, thus refraining from mentioning secret graves and other unsavoury things that never seem to feature in marches for truth.
Say Nothing more than any other book in recent years has been the diamond cutting blade hewing into the plastic surgery that Gerry Adams has performed on his past IRA persona. It has drawn huge amounts of interest, particularly in the USA, with Radden Keefe persistently claiming on air that the killing of Jean McConville was a war crime ordered by Adams during his tenure as O/C of the Belfast Brigade.
If the diaspora in the US secures the constitutional right to vote in any future Irish presidential election, it will have in its possession a narrative that the former Sinn Fein president and erstwhile IRA chief of staff, would rather not see the light of day, preferring that it remain disappeared in its own secret burial place. Presuming the diaspora wins the right to vote, its preference will be an informed choice based on the supply of - rather than the demand for withholding - information. In such a scenario the Adams plans for an extension of his political career risk becoming unstuck.
Not everybody will welcome the Orwell Prize going the way of Radden Keefe. A few months back, Irish Voice editor, Niall O'Dowd, launched a swingeing attack on myself and Ed Moloney, effectively blaming us for having carried out the heavy digging at the coalface from which, in his view, was extracted the incendiary fuel that powered Say Nothing and ignited widespread public interest. At one level, I took it as an unintended compliment. At another, I understood that it was a diatribe saturated with resentment and bile, crafted for no reason other than to discredit the refusal by either Ed Moloney or myself to succumb to the patently false narrative of the peace process or defer to the mendacity of the career politician he shills for. It would have been better for his own credibility had Niall O'Dowd chosen to Say Nothing.
One man's meat being another man's poison, I confess to enjoying the succulent taste of a well-done Orwell Prize, truly a culinary delight.