18 June 2005

Daily Ireland

**Via News Hound - This is good! My favourite is the last section.

Mixed grills? Yeah. Padre Pios? No.

BY Robin Livingstone

So the term ‘Padre Pio’ has entered the dictionary. According to the latest edition of Collins it’s “a form of punishment shooting employed by paramilitaries in Northern Ireland in which the victim is shot through the palms of both hands.”
Now I have to come clean here. I know a bit about punishment beatings and shootings, not because I’m in the RA or anything, honest... simply because I was brought up in Lenadoon where beatings and shootings were a depressingly regular occurrence. And not surprisingly, young Livingstone was on the scene before or after a few, ah, nasty events.
But never, not once, have I heard the phrase ‘Padre Pio’. Never, not once, have I heard it uttered by any of my friends or neighbours. And, crucially, never, not once have I heard it uttered by any republicans, or even by any of the Hucklebucks whose task it was to administer the Wild West justice.
The only people I’ve ever heard using it are journalists. The phrase appeared out of nowhere only recently, and was enthusiastically adopted by hacks because they’re lazy and love it when somebody else does their work for them and most of them work for people who hate republicans.
The Padre Pio thing works as great propaganda on a number of levels. Not only does it confer an aura of martyrdom on the victim, it also winds up those many Catholics who have a soft spot for the bloke with the bleeding hands.

Polyester knickers

I’m not sure what my favourite piece of reportage was from the days when a reporter’s assignment was simply “go to the bar at the Europa and talk to the bloke in the green jumper with patches on the shoulders”. I liked the knickers one. This claimed that IRA volunteers carrying firebombs in their underwear were likely to suffer a horrible fate because the static electricity generated by the polyester in their knickers was likely to set the device off. Ouch!
Doubtless women asking for cotton knickers at Marks & Spencer immediately fell under suspicion.
Then there was the streetlight Mata Hari business. Young squaddies (Brits were always young and they were always squaddies) were being lured to their deaths by republican strumpets who undressed at the bedroom window without drawing the curtains. When a red-blooded young squaddie stopped under the street lamp outside the house to admire the view, he was picked off by an IRA sniper. Devilish, yes, but at least the bloke died happy.

Hoax oath

I always liked the Sinn Féin oath myself. The wonderful part about it is that it is still widely circulated and a fair number of Prods think it’s kosher. The oath begins “I swear by almighty God, by all heaven, by the holy blessed prayer book of the Roman Catholic Church, by the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, by her bitter tears and wailings, by St Patrick, our blessed and adorable host, the rosary, to fight until we die wading in a field of red gore of the Saxon tyrants and murderers of our glorious nationality, if spared, to fight until not a single trace is left to tell that the holy soil of Ireland was trodden by these heretics.” And that’s just the warm-up.
The provenance of the hoax oath remains unclear, although that Europa bloke in the green jumper seems a likely candidate. But, clearly, whoever was responsible was embarrassingly unaware that a goodly number of IRA volunteers hate the Catholic Church more than the Free Presbyterians do.

Sacred Heart and a teddy bear

Given that the Irish and British press is overwhelmingly anti-republican, the fightback has been plucky but modest. When I was a cub reporter a veteran photographer, over whose name I shall draw a kindly veil of silence, used to spend a lot of time taking pictures of houses that had been destroyed in British army raids. And when I say destroyed, I do mean destroyed. These weren’t so much fingertip searches as kango hammer searches and more than once I’ve watched a house being dismantled while a Brit dug the garden up with a mini-JCB.
Anyway, this photographer fella had all the usual tackle in his bag – cameras, lenses, film, sandwiches – but he also had a couple of, let’s see now, what will we call them... props. He had a smashed picture of the Sacred Heart and a teddy bear. And when the raiding party left and we were allowed in to interview the householder and take pictures, he’d place the smashed Sacred Heart picture and the teddy bear in the middle of the mess and snap away to his heart’s content. Funny how much impact they added to the picture.

A very lucky tout

Now mixed grills, unlike Padre Pios, have been around for years. In the parlance of the street, a mixed grill is a bullet to both elbows, knees and ankles – always making sure to lie the victim down on grass to avoid those potentially troublesome ricochets. Next step up from a mixed grill is the old lead headache, normally the fate of touts but not always, I can reveal, because I was fortunate – or unfortunate – enough to meet one who beat the odds.
It was at the black taxi rank at Lenadoon shops and I was in a lengthy queue when a van pulled up and two IRA men opened the back doors and lifted out a bloke tied to a chair and set him down on the pavement. He had blood coming from his nose and mouth and a placard round his neck, which read ‘I Am a Tout’. Given that at this time touts normally spent two days upside down in a cattle shed in Co Louth before being dumped on the border with a booby-trap underneath them, it occurred to me that the placard should have read ‘I Am a Very Lucky Tout’ or perhaps ‘I Am a Very Well-Connected Tout’.
Taxis came and went and the queue shortened, but nobody lifted a finger to help him – come to think of it, nobody even looked at him. Well, not directly anyway.
I’m going to be honest here and admit that when I drew close to him I felt a little uncomfortable; not as uncomfortable as he felt, but uncomfortable nevertheless.
When my taxi came I clambered in with undignified haste and as I waited for the vehicle to fill up, I wondered whether I shouldn’t do the right thing and give the bloke a hand. I was quickly disabused of that notion by fear of a mixed grill, but not of a Padre Pio.

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