The chant Up The Ra which last week caused so many problems for Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane was something that we as young blanketmen used to scream in the face of the prison governor during the H Block protest. Its purpose was to drown out his issuing of a mandatory punishment for our refusing to conform to prison rules. Most of them droned on through their adjudication with inscrutable faces. We could never hear what they said but they certainly heard us. How some of them did not end up taking claims for industrial hearing loss probably baffles medical science. Governor Maria Bailey would have been quick out of the traps claiming all four of her ear drums had been perforated.
Some of the teenage Short Strand prisoners bored with the repetition year in year out, and in endless pursuit of novel ways to amuse themselves and ward off the boredom, put their own inimitable infection on it - Up The Ra became Up The Ruddy Ha Ha. The governors heard it but I am not quite sure they understood it.
Cullinane has paid a price. His party's stance at the minute is to depict him as Daft Davy and sin bin him for a while. He'll return to the fold given that his transgression is hardly close enough to the serious end of the spectrum to warrant much other than a telling off from she who is not his mammy. Although the Wolfe Tones who made famous the 🎵Ooh Ah, Up The Ra🎵 lyric have seen no reason for Cullinane to apologise, his party felt otherwise. In deference to the woke world we inhabit where multitudes queue up from before dawn to catch the first offence of the day, the Curb Your Enthusiasm pills manufactured by somebody called Larry David from South Armagh were being handed out from Shinner HQ in case some potential voter might be offended.
Arguably more ominous was what Cullinane's election agent said.
There’s a seismic shift and the Shinners are at the fucking table. The ‘big two’, as they call themselves, say they’re not going to talk to us. Well, do you know what? We broke the bastards. We broke the Free State and this country will never be the same again.
Resonances of the Adams malignancy which the party, by at least appearing to move towards divesting itself of, managed to attract many more voters.
It would have made for a mischievously entertaining spectacle had Cullinane proffered the defence that the Ra he was chanting about was the one that fought the War of Independence, that he had every right to do so given that the Ra of 1918-21 brought about the birth of the state and parliament he and everyone else across the political spectrum had just been elected to. He could have pitched his actions against those of Charlie Flanagan who was figuratively shouting up the RIC, in honour of the police terrorists vigorously operating on behalf of the British state in Ireland during the War of Independence. None of that happened and those who claim to be the most offended won the day.
But had they reflected rather than reacted, they would have discerned that ultimately it was not Sinn Fein raising the tricolour but the Jolly Roger as the party continued going pirate in respect of the IRA's campaign. Up The Ra? Hardly. With Gerry Kelly having last week trailblazed as a recruiting agent for the PSNI - an armed British police force up to its neck in blocking access to the truth of the Northern conflict - which has since undertaken to prosecute people who were IRA volunteers, Sinn Fein's stance is not up the Ra but fuck the Ra.