Friday, November 24, 2006

Down Memory Lane

Who can forget one of Northern Ireland's greatest home-grown heroes, loyalist killer Michael Stone (photo left of the man in action)? Certainly, the man himself hasn't gone away, you know.

Best remembered for his attack on an IRA funeral in 1988, when he murdered three mourners, Stone entered the Northern Ireland Parliament earlier today carrying a gun and claiming -- see, you just can't believe a word loyalists say -- he had a bomb, which he didn't, before being wrestled to the ground and then taken to the marvellously-titled Antrim Serious Crimes Suite. (Is that at the Larne Hilton or the CullyBackey Marriott?)

According to reports: 'staff and visitors fled in terror as smoke appeared to emanate from a device and there were shouts of "it's a bomb."' This is surely a misquote, because Northern Irish people would only ever say: 'it's a bomb, so it is!'

Michael Stone provides us with a good example of what has happened to notorious figures from the Northern Irish conflict in the readjustment to peace time. It's hard to write about this without giggling at the various ironies that keep popping up. ('Peace?' what peace?!' I hear my parents snort on the phone, for example.) Many of the notorious ones were total losers to begin with, crap at school, efficient only at bullying, rather less efficient but no less deadly once armed with guns -- how many times did the various loyalist groups admit that 'we... ahhh.. shot the wrong person'?

Stone was convicted of the three murders I mentioned above and three more as well, and sent to jail in 1988. He entered a not guilty plea but also offered no defense (the killings at the funeral were caught on national TV), and was sentenced to -- listen up, Americans -- at least 30 years in prison.

Fast-forward to July 24, 2000 and Stone is released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, which, in its inch-by-inch filleting of Protestant and Catholic sacred cows, mandated that all prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes must be set free. People with nicknames so scary they should have never seen the light of day, slouched towards Belfast -- Cruncher, Sledger, Butcher, Lenny. Such is the spectrum of greys that brought a measure of peace to the greatest wee country in the world.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving, New York City, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving to all who may surf by and read this. I made it safely to a photographer's house after wading through one of the rainiest days I can recall in New York City, and then snapped this using his Big Mac. That's him in the kitchen fecking around with rosemary chicken behind me.

I don't know what I am most thankful for this year; for my renewed, difficult yet always rewarding relationship with New York? For many old and new friends, both here and elsewhere? For my seemingly unshakeable, steel-reinforced, cast iron constitution? Undecided as yet...