I plead guilty. The question buried somewhere in earlier comments strikes home: “Why do you keep banging on about Gerry Adams so much when the Giro is on? “ Now I could give an apples and pears answer, the two being in different categories. But the question is better than the reply.In the week of the Adams interrogation the Editor the Belfast Telegraph was moved to display his cool in a piece boldly headlined. “The big story drowned out by sounds of a city having fun.”
And how is the Giro going down? Over in London I’m dying to know more. For exiles I recommend a great montage of pix in the Guardian showing the race literally cutting through Troubles environments and pink in the oddest places on the BBCNI website (not forgetting pink’s association with sexuality). The whole the place is plastered in pink far more than political murals. Despite the weather it looks great live and on on iPlayer. As a TV spectacle it’s broadcast in 165 countries in far wider coverage than the media circus gave to Gerry Adams.
Is the comparison is unfair? Pessimists and quasi-marxists will dismiss Big Events like the Giro, UK City of Culture, the Titanic anniversary, even the G8 summit in Fermanagh as distractions like the bread and circuses Roman emperors threw at the multitude to keep them quiet. But this would surely be a big mistake. The fact that outsiders and government are prepared to risk it in Northern Ireland (not least over the weather) is a tribute to what the people as a whole have achieved in spite of the dark side of politics. The old Troubles plea: “Why do you never show the positive side of Northern Ireland ” was not quite accurate, deserved an awful lot of sympathy but was never quite convincing. Today is surely different. The positives have started to outweigh the negatives. The job now is to make that sound convincing and either steer politics into responding or further restrict its already quite narrow areas of operation.
The bright side of life is not the only part, but it’s getting bigger and better if not as quickly as we’d like. The Giro is hard evidence that Northern Ireland now has a lot to lose and even more to gain.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London