Sunday, August 28, 2005

Gerry Fitt


The senior Ulster politician, Gerry Fitt, died recently. He was at the epicentre of the Civil Rights Movement which emerged in Northern Ireland during the 1960's.
From working class Belfast stock, Fitt was politically driven to improve the lot of the people who endured the worst unemployment and housing conditions in the United Kingdom.
He was a committed socialist, and although an Irish nationalist, was prepared to work to produce a settlement that would leave Northern Ireland in the UK. As long as the rights of all, and a decent standard of living for his constituents could be ensured, he was prepared to work with unionism.
He regarded the use of violence for political ends with contempt, and was outspoken in his utter condemnation of the IRA. He found their brand of blood and soil nationalism, akin to fascism in its extremist ideology, repugnant.
His outspoken codemnation of the IRA led to the end of his political career. He was threatened with death, and his home in West Belfast was subjected to such sustained attack that it had to be heavily fortified.
He eventually lost his Westminster seat to Gerry Adams, and enobled as Lord Fitt, moved to London. He was a popular figure at Westminster. A natural comedian and raconteur, he was often to be found at the terrace bar of the House of Commons, regaling all and sundry with tall tales and anecdotes. He was a lover of gin and tonic, and was reputed to be able to drink any journalist (not noted for their abstemiousness) under the table.
We don't seem to produce politicians like Fitt anymore. He was resolutely old Labour, and although his brand of socialism has been comprehensively discredited, was absolutely true to his convictions. There was no side to the man, he was utterly trustworthy, and was respected by all.
Fitt's tragedy was that he was born in the tribal society of Northern Ireland. He was rejected by the catholic nationalist community as a sell out to the British state, while continuing to be regarded with suspicion by Ulster Unionism.
That's the problem with societies that contain communities with conflicting senses of national loyalty and identity: you have to be one thing or the other, there is no middle ground.
He exemplified all the things that are good about Belfast: straight talking, grit, humour, and compassion.

5 comments:

MHN for short said...

Thanks Garf. You are a great contributor to the Trans Atlantic Cultural Exchange Program. If it weren't for you, I would not have known who he was, what he did or that he died. You sharing helps round out my knowledge of the world. Thanks Man!!!

pissoff said...

You've really got a flair for writing don't you Garf? Tres interesting.

garfer said...

I'm surpised anyone commented on this post. Most people won't have a clue who I'm on about!

Rowan said...

wow, that was well written, you almost made me feel like: you should know this guy, he's so important and then I remember well, duh you are canadian, why would you know him necessarily? But, wow, what a eulogy and immortailitiy you've left for him

garfer said...

Thanks Rowan.
When I go on your blog, IE freezes. No idea why. Consequently I can't post comments on your blog. I wonder if anyone else is experiencing something similar.