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Election fever's symptoms include political glaucoma

(Tom Kelly, Irish News)

Yes, it's election season and the gloves are off. This is the time of the year when many over enthusiastic party press officers have a tendency to suffer from a temporary condition known as 'political glaucoma'. During election season clarity of vision is a rare occurrence among these propagandists whose condition worsens when confronted with either plain logic or the regurgitated language from their own scripts.

Last week in response to this column one could see the first symptoms of the condition emanating from a mid-Ulster Sinn Féin press officer on behalf of the local MP. Irrational rants and personal abuse are among the more noticeable nasty side effects as the condition progresses. Any ability to present reasoned argument is lost by a sudden rush of blood to the head which incapacitates the recipient from holding two coherent thoughts simultaneously. The condition is not thought to respond well to treatment for a period of weeks but normal vision is usually restored as long as the patient takes medication. Or as they say in Magherafelt "keep taking the tablets".

To make life easier for patients, sorry, Sinn Féin press officers (though the condition is known to affect other political species) afflicted with political glaucoma I thought it might be useful to list some useful references or definitions which may come in handy over the next four weeks.

'Boss' Noun: to supervise; Verb: to order around. Colloquially used as a not very nice way of putting someone in their place.

'Rebuttal' Noun: Usually means to disprove by reason. Often confused with more physical reply in the form of a 'Glasgow kiss'. 'Reason' Verb: to reach conclusion by connected thought. The connected thought usually means you are against us; so logically leads to conclusion 'bog 'off.

'Respect' Verb: treat with consideration – before deciding on use of a baseball bat or hurling stick.

'Rant' Verb: to speak loudly, bombastically or violently. To be used frequently when a rational argument cannot be found.

'Civil Rights': Something sought by some for everyone before others decided to kill some to get it.

'Equality': Noun: being same in merit or status or opportunity. Usually this is interpreted as reaching the point whereby the boot may be put to the neck of the other side because they did it.

'Politics' Noun: described as the art of the possible. Disquised by intermittent acts of posturing, violence and bigotry and revised as a possible form of art as demonstrated by Michael Stone.

'Justice' Noun: authority exercised in maintenance of right. In paramilitary code book – justice is that doled out to freelancers who try to privatise criminal activity without the authority of the Army Council. Usually involves semi permanent limb damage or exile.

'Informant' Noun: provider of information. Tout. Person intensely disliked as traitor.

'Cooperation' Noun: to work together. Loosely translated as political necessity, in the form of an involuntary coalition in order to create a sectarian carve up.

'Opposition' Noun: To disagree. Often target of sustained abuse and preferably destroyed.

'Oppress' Verb: Tyrannical government of those without power or those in opposition. An aspiration to be pursued vigorously in the 'Provisional Guide Book to Good Government'.

'Murder' Noun: intentional unlawful killing of a human being by another. In paramilitary handbook of acceptable definitions may be the intentional unlawful but justified killing of a human being by another by virtue of his or her work, religion or ability to fall foul of paramilitary families with connections.

'Freedom of speech': term associated with the inherent human right to voice one's opinion publicly without fear of censorship or punishment'. Not applied in Northern Ireland if one's human rights infringe on the credibility of paramilitaries or could lead to their arrest.

'The Fourth Estate'. Description of the media and its explicit capacity of advocacy and its implicit ability to frame political debate. Not to be confused with Fourth Province and only agreed to if one controls all the media outlets.

Of course I could go on and on but I thought these would be the most helpful to struggling wordsmiths in Sinn Féin press offices.

The election season is democracy at its best and its worst. We the people do get the chance to get the type of representation we deserve but before getting to the ballot box we will have to wade through a mountain of propaganda. Let's hope, as Adlai Stevenson once said that 'when the political ammunition runs low'; we are not going to be subjected to 'the rusty artillery of abuse'.

February 13, 2007

This article appeared first in the February 12, 2007 edition of the Irish News.

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