Am in Dublin en route to a screening of ‘I, Dolours’, at the Foyle film festival in Derry and the Brexit story in London is totally dominating the headlines in Ireland.
Teresa May’s future as British prime minister is the subject of intense speculation and Michael Gove is at its centre. It is conventional wisdom that if he joins those who have resigned from May’s Cabinet in protest at her Brexit deal, then she is toast.
Apparently he has turned down May’s offer of replacing the former Brexit Secretary, someone called Raab who quit the Cabinet in protest, saying that he would only take the job if she gave him a free hand to renegotiate the deal she struck with Brussels. Predictably that was a non-starter.
Before Gove became an elected politician he was a leader writer for The Times newspaper and one day, not long after the first IRA ceasefire in 1994, I got a phone call ffrom him.
I didn’t know much about the guy then and it was only later that I learned that he was a signed-up, fervent neo-conservative. You’ll remember the neo-cons, dear reader, they were the people who, amongst a cornucopia of other horrors, brought us the Iraq war, the destruction of Libya and, in their wake, those nice people from ISIS.
The neo-cons saw left-wing, terrorist plots everywhere. And so it was with the Irish peace process.
Gove proceeded to bounce the neocon analysis off my good self. It ran something like this: it was all a sham; Gerry Adams and his friends intended to gull everyone into a false sense of security and donning a new respectable face to present to the world, the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Fein would gobble up the SDLP and dominate Nationalist politics in NI.
Once that was done and there was no longer a genuine, moderate Nationalist party to hamper the Provos, the IRA would resume its war and a disenchanted and demoralised British government would collapse and Irish unity, in defiance of Unionism, would be achieved.
What did I think, he asked?
My regular readers will guess at my response but when Gove realised he was speaking to the wrong man, he got quite shirty.
As we all know, Gove’s prognosis was wildly, wildly wrong. To be fair to him he has recently changed tack somewhat – but considering that the IRA had given up all the weapons it was supposed to use in Gove’s, post-SDLP demise offensive, he really didn’t have much choice.
But what to make of a political system in which such an appalling idiot can be made king or queen-maker or destroyer?