I’ve been using the pen name “Phoenix Martin” since 1996, before the cyber explosion and, hell, even before I had a computer to myself. Certainly before it became trendy. It came to being as I painstakingly transcribed by hand my first poems for submission to publishers who had actually advertised for same in the local press.
The invention was a statement of intent for me: a declaration that I was not to be defined by my birth or any of my past, but by who I could be.
The “Phoenix” part came from the old legends, which I had come to know through an old BBC children’s mini series “The Phoenix and the Carpet” – reborn through fire, and fused with the mural at the top of the nearby Rathlin Drive in Creggan. The “Martin” bit from my third Christian name.
That inspirational mural is gone now – lost to conformity – but I remain, as does my admiration of the artist and the ideal: an ideal which has come to pass, for Derry has indeed risen from the ashes to again flourish.
Did this come from the wheedling influence of SDLP and UUP who together eroded a series of potential governments and managed (as interim deputized leaders in the 90s) to get their people charged twice for residential water supply while government incentives provided – and continues to provide – same to industry for free. Did these parties, who together frowned upon the notion of bringing actual antagonists to the table to bring about peace, catalyze a situation where it became safe to walk the streets, wherever those streets were — inasmuch as this can be achieved anywhere? Did they energize the people from both communities to demand that peace by scolding John Hume for talking to the political arm of the republican movement, and denouncing his efforts … until it became evident that the man was actually succeeding and the international players were paying attention?
Or did these “conservatives” from across the divide merely sit perfecting their bum-grooves on Stormont seats, reeling in their salaries: throwing the odd crumb to a hopeful electorate and looking to be heading for another failed government pension. (Yep, anyone who was elected in old Stormont flashes in the pan receives a pension from each failure … like bankers.)
Could it really have been the unlikely combination of Sinn Fein, PUP,and DUP — the balls on table firecracker politics which brought all the ill-feeling out into public domain, rather than pretending it didn’t exist — which began the clearing of the air, and introduced the notion that they didn’t need to like each other – heck they could even hate each other – to rebuild and progress for their own (and indeed for all)?
Of course “history” shows that Trimble was part of the peace process. Sure didn’t he get the Nobel Peace Prize along with Hume? Surely it wasn’t true that he and the rest of the UUP had to be cajoled, bribed and finally dragged like a squealing child into that process … and then given the Nobel biscuit which he famously claimed to have earned, and refused to comment on its destination, while Hume used his portion to further the development of cross community projects.
Now we have those who reckoned they could have and McCann do better. Well so far they have achieved nothing on the Unionist front: DUP and UUP voters dismissive of their idealism, their end counts remaining solid.
The only seat casualties are among the nationalist/republican parties with SDLP losing 2 seats and Sinn Fein losing one. So much for not being partisan.
And what will this Wunderkind achieve in the next five years other than a boost in income for the elected … and of course a sense of hubris for those who voted for them?
It would be nice to see them actually produce something positive, but my money’s on Sinn Fein and SDLP getting their seats back next time around, heralded by the PBPA support crashing embarrassingly at the next council elections, a mere bump on the road to real progress by hard work and less rhetoric.