The title and best known line of a Seamus Heaney poem has found its way into The Irish Times‘ political coverage of the east Belfast murder of Kevin McGuigan. Here’s the headline:
Fine Gael adopts ‘whatever you say, say nothing’ approach to NI murder
Police authorities have said some of those involved in the 6 August shooting may have ties to the Provisional IRA, even if the organization didn’t order the murder. Either way could cause problems for affiliated Sinn Féin. But as the Times story notes:
The Fine Gael side of the Coalition has adopted an uncharacteristic “whatever you say, say nothing” approach to the potential political fallout for Sinn Féin …
It is something of a delicate situation for the Government. Facing into a bruising general election campaign with Sinn Féin doing well in opinion polls, the temptation to milk political capital out of the situation must be strong.
On the other hand, as Sinn Féin frequently reminds it, the Government is a co-guarantor of the Belfast Agreement. To allow itself to be portrayed as a player which jeopardised the continuance of the peace process would be damaging for Government TDs in the Border region and beyond.
Heaney, who died in 2013, wrote “Whatever You Say, Say Nothing,” in 1975, during the worst part of The Troubles. Here’s the relevant stanza:
Northern reticence, the tight gag of place
And times: yes, yes. Of the “wee six” I sing
Where to be saved you only must save face
And whatever you say, you say nothing.
My wife is fond of quoting the very next line: “Smoke-signals are loud-mouthed compared with us.”
Here’s the full poem.