Northern Ireland’s clichés haven’t gone away, you know…

AFTER reading Robert Fisk the other day, I realised just how guilty I (and others!) are of using clichés. No doubt in the last few days you’ll have been treated to headlines about tanks ‘rolling’ into Georgia, as the ‘Red Bear re-awakened’. And sports commentary is pretty much a constant stream (oops!) of cliché. There are many trite, overused phrases associated with Northern Ireland, and Fisk lists a few; as well as playing the ‘blame game’ he recalls ‘how Protestants in Northern Ireland were always “staunch” and Catholics always “devout”.’ There are plenty more. How often has a politician rattled out a reaction beginning with ‘The reality is…’ before giving his own narrow view, which often bears little relation to reality. I’m willing to bet that you’ve read how the horror of the Omagh bomb made peace possible, or how hope somehow sprang from the ashes of the aftermath in recent days. It might make readers feel better, but perhaps not the survivors. Or remember how Secretaries of State always used to take decisions ‘in the round’, implying they had consulted widely before coming to a decision, which was probably pre-determined anyway. And why do our politicians always ‘slam’ and ‘blast’ each other when they disagree or criticise each other? Perhaps because headlines prefer shorter, stronger, confrontational words? I suppose with their limits on vocabulary, clichés provide a kind of lazy shorthand, although Fisk reckons the use of such tired language is a form of addiction and a disservice to the reader. If you have a favourite or hated hackneyed phrase, stick it in the comments!