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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
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Surrealing in the Years Only Suella Braverman knows what on earth she meant by Ulster comments

Suella Braverman’s comments about Northern Ireland were so strange that nobody even knows how to respond.

IF YOU’VE FOLLOWED this column from its outset you’ll know its usual purpose is to pick apart a few of the stranger Irish news stories that unfold throughout the week.

Unfortunately, this laser-like focus can occasionally be wobbled by distracting events from across the Irish Sea, especially when the matter at hand concerns us in some way or another.

That’s what happened this week when the Home Secretary Suella Braverman penned a confused and confusing op-ed for The Times on Wednesday, decrying the pro-Palestinian marches planned across the United Kingdom on Armistice Day. 

In the UK, Braverman’s editorial has put her job at risk and, at the time of writing, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is said to be actively considering firing her for the article’s suggestion that the Metropolitan Police express favouritism towards certain protestors, including pro-Palestinian protestors and Black Lives Matter protestors. The Met, for their part, have already requested that would-be demonstrators not hold any protests on Armistice Day.

Calling for harsher treatment of protestors is certainly disturbing, but it was not that argument alone which caught the eye of Irish readers. While making her point, Braverman made a deeply strange comparison, saying that the planned marches were “disturbingly reminiscent of Ulster.”

Braverman also said that the marches planned for Saturday “are an assertion of primacy by certain groups — particularly Islamists — of the kind we are more used to seeing in Northern Ireland”. 

Now if you can’t work out what she meant by that, you’re not alone. Leo Varadkar had no clue what to say either.

“I can’t really interpret her comments. I’m not quite sure what she meant,” said the Taoiseach, clearly coming to the prudential conclusion that when somebody is weaving a web of utter nonsense, it is best to avoid getting wrapped up in it.

I, however, can’t help myself.

Because here is the thing: taken at face value, Braverman’s comments only seem to mean one thing. There is, quite simply, only one group famous for marching in Ulster. And they are very famous for it. You’ve probably heard of them. Often heralded by the haunting toot of a thousand flutes, a particular affinity for the colour orange. 

And what makes Braverman’s remarks so odd is that this group of people are fiercely loyal to the flag and the state she represents. One might even call them… loyalists. 

Such is the confusion over Braverman’s article that the Grand Secretary of the Orange Order has stated his intention to contact Braverman seeking clarification of what she meant. Unionism is a core tenet of both those who tend do the marching in the North of Ireland, as well as the Conservative Party, or to give them their full title: the Conservative and Unionist Party.

The suggestion that Braverman might have been equating the Orange Order to people whom she called “hate marchers” is therefore particularly surprising.

But unfortunately for Braverman, if that’s not what she meant, then what on earth did she mean?

The recent history of English politicians misspeaking or misunderstanding the cultural dynamics of Northern Ireland means that a Tory cabinet minister without even the foggiest notion of what takes place in the six counties is nothing new. Only Braverman herself knows what she was trying to get at, and one suspects that the confusion will only deepen when an explanation finally does surface.

It’s been that kind of week.

If you stood on the the Irish eastern coastline this week and looked across the water you’d practically be able to hear the circus music. But what else are we to expect of the playing field that produces figures like Suella Braverman and, of course, Boris Johnson.

Because this week we learned that that Boris Johnson, while Prime Minister during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, suggested going on live television to be injected with Covid.

‘Why?,’ you’re probably wondering.‘What could that have possibly achieved?,’ you may be asking. ‘I absolutely would have watched that with a glass of wine and a bucket of popcorn,’ I hear myself think. It’s impossible to avoid imagine what format this could have taken. Would he have been injected by a doctor or Richard Madeley? Would there have been a live studio audience? Why not just catch Covid the normal way, like the rest of us (including him, so badly that he ended up on a ventilator) all did?

While we’re doing Covid throwbacks… The family of Captain Sir Tom Moore, the ones whose Captain Tom Foundation is under investigation by the UK’s charity commission, were this week ordered by the Central Bedfordshire Council to demolish an unauthorised home spa they’d built in their back garden.

In case you’ve forgotten, Moore was a 99-year-old man who did 100 laps of his back garden during Covid in order to raise money for the NHS. Moore became a viral sensation and ended up raising £33million – earning him both a knighthood and honorary military promotion. He died in 2021 shortly after a family holiday to Barbados, paid for by British Airways.

After his death, his daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore became CEO of the charity on a salary of £85,000 a year. In its first year the charity spent more on fundraising and management costs than on charitable donations, including payments to other companies owned by Hannah and her husband. The charity’s behaviour has resulted in an investigation, and Ingram-Moore said the charity is unlikely to exist for much longer.

And now, the feds are coming for the unauthorised spa.

How dare they? What did poor old Captain Sir Tom do all those laps of his garden for if not for it to one day become an unauthorised spa? Why did he spend his life serving his country if not for the right to install a spa of such mass that it is doing damage to a Bedfordshire building that is protected due to its historical significance? It’s an outrage. 

They don’t have Joe Duffy in the UK, but if they did, I’d be calling in on their behalf. It’s a injustice, Joe. A disgrace. Another reminder, as if it were needed, of the importance of the right to protest. Nobody tell Suella.

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