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Yes-man's 'no' to Blair a sign of the times

(Brian Feeney, Irish News)

What do you think prompted our former reticent and distinctly forgettable proconsul to stab the present incumbent in the back last week, not once, not twice, but three times?

Twice in the House of Commons and then on BBC.

Think about it.

Here's a guy, Murphy, you'll need to be reminded of his name, a guy who is way up there in the list of weakest proconsuls vying with Merlyn Rees who was by general agreement the worst of all.

If Murphy had any opinions on big issues in the north they remained secrets clasped tight to his chest. Still, everyone liked him, or said they did.

One point they could all agree on was that he never said anything to offend anyone.

Can anyone remember anything he did either, except be offside when Orange marches were passing Ardoyne?

He resembled Rees too in the way he always seemed to be, as Paddy Devlin said, wrestling with his conscience. As Devlin added, the only trouble was that the result was always a draw.

Think about it.

Did you know Murphy's opinion on anything before last week when he revealed that he would have preferred 11 or 15 councils to seven. Note that in typical dithering fashion, Murphy fashion he said he would "have been looking at between11 and 15" although there was no option available between 11 and 15.

Wobbly as always, he couldn't plump for one or the other. Just mischief making.

As for his waffle about 'on the runs', are we to believe this is a new concept to him?

Has he not been a bag-carrier and general message boy on the north since 1997?

Was he not privy to the original negotiations with the IRA at Weston Park four years ago?

Certainly he was and he knew all the details at issue. What did he do as proconsul here to have anything done to change them? Nothing. What did he say publicly about the agreement to which he was party? Nothing.

Now he reckons the deal and the bill on OTRs he bequeathed to our present smoothie-chops proconsul needs to be amended.


He even went on BBC to repeat it all so he could deny his successor thrice.

If you consider it, you'll find Murphy said more in the last week on major policy issues here than he did in all the time he was in office. Amazing.

Why is he doing it?

First, you will note that Murphy is no longer a member of the Cabinet, not even a junior minister.

He was good enough to be proconsul here but evidently not good enough in Blair's eyes to inflict him on anywhere or anything else.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of his tenure here.

In short, he's been demoted. Oh yes, he's chairman of the commons Intelligence and Security committee.

Big deal.

Its members are appointed by Blair and your grandchildren may well find out in 50 years time what the committee has been up to. Murphy must find it a bit of a come-down from lording it around Hillsborough Castle to...well, nothing very much really.

Could being deposited on the back benches have anything to do with Murphy's sudden renewed interest in his previous job? Whatever the reason, it's unprecedented.

It used to be that there was bi-partisanship on Ireland in Westminster until the Conservatives broke that understanding. It used to be only the far left of the Labour party attacked party policy.

There has to be a compelling reason for a former secretary of state to undermine his government's plans, especially when they're not news to him.

The fact that a noted yes-man like Murphy feels confident enough to do it is the surest indication yet that power is draining from Blair's government. It shows the truth of the old adage that even a worm will turn.

December 1, 2005

This article appeared first in the November 30, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

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