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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It takes a lot to rouse a Nation...

I don't know if you've read Joe Saward, Brad Spurgeon, and David Tremayne in respect of their experience during the Bahrain GP weekend however all three reported pretty much the same thing, their meeting with three moderate voices within Bahrain, both Sunni and Shia, and how this gave them a third perspective on life on the island.

Joe reports that he was contacted by one of the readers of his Blog and asked whether he'd like to come for coffee and discuss the Bahrain situation - he then brought the other two guys along with him. Brad Spurgeon, while he was in Iran during the overthrow of the Shah in the late '70's is, as he describes himself, a Sports Reporter: Joe, who has researched and written books on the French Resistance, is a sports reporter with a strong interest in History, and David Tremayne, Motor Racing Journalist.

Now I like reading these guys blogs and articles and I think they are very good at what they do, and their reports on the three moderate voices do introduce an element of caution however they are not nor do they purport to be news journos and this must be considered in any reading of their findings.

Joe will appreciate that rebellion/revolution or whatever name you wish to attach to an uprising by those who feel disaffected always begins with a minority of citizens who feel the need to express that disaffection through peaceful demonstration.  It is a truism in such situations that a minority within that minority group will turn to violence should they feel that their voices are not being heard.

A case in point is best expressed through the historical example of a small island where the majority of citizens had only a minority voice within the ruling parliament as a result of which they were unable, through the machinations of the ruling parliament, to achieve any level of self regulation or any sense that they could ever achieve recognition of their concerns.

Much like Bahrain today, the primary hope of this minority voice, was simply to have their voice heard within parliament; to effect change which would give a strong voice to the majority, who were being oppressed as a result of their religious beliefs, within the political system.

Much like Bahrain, the majority just got on with life, kept their heads down, and kept out of the eye of the authorities.  That is the way of the oppressed.

History tells us that the primary desire of the vocal minority was for a form of self governance which would be subordinate to that of the ruling parliament, but would have real powers to affect change for the betterment of the majority.

The ruling parliament made promise after promise to this group and even brought forward a bill to introduce self governance, however, the introduction of this bill was postponed time and again and eventually a minority within the minority determined that the only way to effect change was through violence and a complete separation from the ruling parliament.

On the 24th April 1916 a very small group of people occupied a number of strategic buildings within the Capital and declared the Island to be a Republic, they held out for one week against the superior forces of the army and 15 ringleaders were executed by the Government.

The public attitude towards the rising was one of hostility and confusion however after the executions that attitude altered completely.  Suddenly it was the case that those who had advocated a form of political self governance subordinate to the ruling parliament were no longer returned in elections.  A new political party arose within the country which sought the complete overthrow of that parliament and independence, and those who had previously kept their heads down and accepted their lot threw in with this political and militant group.

Eventually, the island gained independence (apart from 6 counties), however this might never have been the case if the ruling parliament had sought to address the disaffected in the first instance and it is likely that if matters had been properly addressed the population would still be part of the overall ruling parliament, with a degree of self-governance, would be politically content, and would have been politically stable for the past 96 years.

The case of Ireland, my country, as set out above, mirrors that of Bahrain today to some extent, the majority of the populace have few political ideologies and are just trying to get on with life - while they may sympathise with the peaceful demonstrators they are not willing to get involved - the violence of the minority they abhor.  However the reports from Bahrain over the weekend of the GP point to a shift on the part of the peaceful demonstrators towards the politics of the extremer elements.  The voice of the opposition has previously called for a meaningful say, in tandem with the current rulers, in the governance of the island now the reports are stating that they are moving towards a call for the removal of the "regime".

I am not one for forceful revolution.  I was born into a world where violence took place on the streets of Northern Ireland on a regular basis.  My education was based on 800 years of occupation by a foreign power and the continued occupation of part of my island.  Through it all I learned abhorrence of the violence perpetrated by both sides against the innocent and guilty alike.  I do not wish it on any country.

However if the history of Ireland has taught me anything it is that you cannot ignore the voice of the people.  Minorities can quickly become majorities as a result of one inappropriate action on the part of the ruling party.  The creation of a culture of Martyrs will stir and foment revolution and the greater the number of martyrs the more violent and extreme the revolution becomes.

Bahrain is on the cusp and it is the ruling family that must seek to address the problems which obviously affect Bahraini society.  If they do not then they would do well to read their Irish history in order that they might fully understand the consequences of making promises which do not materialise.

Maybe you can now understand why I could not support the Bahraini GP, why F1 should have stayed away, and why, for the first time since Imola 1994 F1 moved me to tears.

On that day in 1994 it was sorrow caused by tragedy, in 2012 it resulted from my revulsion at the politicisation of my sport.