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Ruth Dudley Edwards urges Queens University audience to ignore 'well known eccentric'
rights, freedoms and repression |
Thursday June 01, 2006 15:55 by Niall Cusack - Irish Political Review June 2006
She does this while not gazing into a mirror
Belfast actor Niall Cusack attended the launch of the republication of Ruth Dudley Edward's biography of Patrick Pearse, at Queens University Bookshop. He recounts Ruth's performance, including his own bit-part in the proceedings - taken from the just published June Irish Political Review.
Ms Ruth Dudley Edwards in person inspires a number of adjectives - 'frail' first and foremost. One thinks of Blanche in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'. Other adjectives include: fragile, confused, nostalgic, brave, timid, hopeful, pessimistic... oh, one could ransack Roget!
She chose to devote her entire speech at the launch of her book in the Bookshop at Queen's in Belfast to a review in this journal (May IPR page 3, graphic attached) and to the absurd allegations made by 'a well-known eccentric' called Jack Lane. 'He may be here now!' she cried, with great bravado, peering around a uniformly sycophantic Queen's academic audience. A shudder went round the room. But no, the Great Ogre was conspicuous by his absence.
NIall Cusack piece taken from June 2006 Irish Political Review
But Ms Edwards had badly misjudged her audience. One could palpably sense their mystification. Who was this well-known eccentric? No-one in Belfast (that is, Queen's University) had ever heard of him. The jokes fell flat. There was a vague unease that such a Great Historian should spend so much time obsessively refuting allegations made by a nonentity in a nonentity's magazine.
But refute them she did. How dare Jack Lane suggest that she was ashamed of her book 'Patrick Pearse: the Triumph of Failure' ! She was proud of it, stood over every word, ...dammit, she was young and innocent when she wrote it, had no inkling of the trouble it might cause, particularly the bits about Pearse being unconsciously homosexual (sic), she was working at the Department of Trade and Industry, she was a lowly civil servant, she just wanted to get it
At this stage the present writer was so carried away that if he had looked round and caught Jack Lane standing beside him he would have punched him in the nose, the bastard!
Ah, but then we went a trifle downhill.
Revisionist? A title of honour! "I wear the badge revisionist as a badge of honour! Patrick Pearse had a right to sacrifice himself but not all those civilians! If seven people can determine these things, the Continuity IRA has the right to style themselves the heirs of 1916. There is a flouting of democracy."
'Bad taste' interruption
As regards the celebrations of 1916: "There is a small but adult debate this year: get rid of the lot or accept it all. It is a huge
leap forward that the dead civilians were remembered by a minute's silence."
Ruth Dudley Edwards ended on a very dignified note, which I can't quite remember. There was quiet applause, which I had the bad taste to interrupt.
"Can I ask a question," I said, "what do you mean by flouting of democracy? Are you saying that the Easter Rising was a flouting of democracy? What democracy was there in Ireland or Britain in 1916?"
Ms Edwards was already quitting the podium but she muttered: "I don't want an argument!". I responded: "I don't want an argument either, I just want an answer to my question: what do you mean by flouting of democracy? When was the last General Election?" Ms Edwards muttered : "Home Rule was on the statute book", and turned her back on me. By
this stage there was the sort of palpable embarrassment among the audience as when someone has farted in church: acute discomfort combined with lack of courage to speak.
Someone else (of no consequence) made a speech (of no consequence). People came up to me and congratulated me on my intervention, in low tones. "Speak to her!" they said, "she's really very nice when you get to meet her."
Sure enough, after the inconsequential speeches, I approached Ms Edwards and said to her: "So, what do you mean by flouting of democracy?" She turned her back on me, without dignifying my question with a reply. She got stuck in signing copies of her book. A woman with big soulful eyes turned them on me and asked me who I was. I told her (admitting in the process that I was not Jack Lane) that I represented the Aubane Historical Society. She asked me what I thought of 'Patrick Pearse; the Triumph of Failure" and I said I thought it was a very good book. "But have you told Ruth that?" she wailed. I took the hint.
On my way out, I leaned over and said to Ms Dudley Edwards: "It's a very good book". She shuddered and turned her back on me.
by Niall Cusack - June 2006 Irish Political Review
The June Irish Political Review includes an account of revisionist historian Peter Hart’s recent brief visit to UCC and the ambush that awaited him there. Correspondence with a nameless Queens University historian on the subject of Peter Hart's methods is also published. See http://www.indymedia.ie/article/75885
The item so offending Ruth Dudley Edwards (IPR May2006) - double-click to read, left-click to save