Strokes grow to epidemic proportions

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The Independent Online
It had never occurred to me before now that the Ulster Unionists might have a sense of humour, or at least a sense of mischief, but I have had to change my mind ever since they started refusing to call Sinn Fein "Sinn Fein" and started calling it "Sinn Fein/IRA". It may well be a joke, but if it is, it is prompted in the first place by a joke that Gerry Adams has been making for some time already.

Gerry Adams's joke is the one about how hard it is to get in touch with the IRA. Every time he says that he will try his best to contact the IRA and see if there is any chance of a ceasefire or some chat about a ceasefire, he gives the impression that he can only contact the IRA by looking through his old address book for an old phone number which may or may not still be the right one, or by asking round his mates to see if any of them should happen to know where the elusive IRA is these days.

The Ulster Unionists, on the other hand, try to give the impression that all Gerry Adams has to do to contact the IRA is open his kitchen door and say, "And another thing, lads ..."

And they have finally stumbled on a way of suggesting the alleged closeness of Adams and the IRA, and that is always to refer to the political party as if it were also the terrorist organisation, as "Sinn Fein/IRA".

Of course, the whole Northern Ireland situation has been beset by double talk the whole way along. When the IRA kills someone, they call it a killing or even a military action, while the British government calls it a murder. They call themselves an army, fighting a war. The Government calls them a terrorist organisation, committing atrocities. When the IRA let off a bomb, they "claim" responsibility, but the Government and the BBC tend to say that they "admit" responsibility, and so on it goes.

(The oddest example of this Irish double speak is the way that Derry is called Derry by one side and Londonderry by the other. Gerry Anderson, in a wonderful series of talks he gave on Radio 4 before he went to "Anderson Country", insisted on calling the place Stroke City on the grounds that it was shorter than saying Derry/stroke/Londonderry the whole time.)

But this new idea of calling Sinn Fein "Sinn Fein/IRA" strikes me as a profitable vein, and I don't see why we shouldn't coin a few more names to remind ourselves of times and places and things well outside the Irish arena.

For instance, I would like to suggest that, using the Sinn Fein/IRA pattern, we always remind ourselves of the Rupert connection by calling Sky TV "Sky/Murdoch".

Perhaps, if we feel strongly enough about it, we could refer to the "Times/Murdoch" and the "Sun/Murdoch".

We could remind ourselves that the Tories are not just a party, they also form the Government of the country, and that it is possible to confuse these two roles. Indeed, the Tories have been in power so long that they often confuse the two roles themselves, and sometimes seem to forget that there is any difference, so I venture to suggest a reminder in the form of "The Tory Party/Admin", or perhaps the Tory "Party/Power Base".

The Chinese are no doubt already referring to Taiwan as "Taiwan/ China", as they stick to the myth that anything which ever belonged to them once upon a time does still belong to them, which is why I personally was so worried that the satellite they had lost control of might fall in Britain - the Chinese were quite capable of claiming that wherever it fell was now Chinese territory.

The gang of thugs who run Burma today have already tried changing the name of the country to Myanmar, to emphasise their spurious hold on it, not unlike the way the gang that runs Britain today changed the name of Somerset to Avon, the name of Denbighshire to Clwyd and so on.

One day all these things will be settled, maybe.

And when they are, maybe we in this country can decide which country we do actually live in - whether it is Great Britain, or Britain, or the UK, or the United Kingdom, or England/stroke/Wales/stroke/Scotland or whatever ...

And when that is settled, maybe we can stop being the only country in the world that doesn't mention its name on its postage stamps, or, come to that, in its national anthem.

And after that ... to be continued some other time, perhaps by referendum.

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