Saturday, 9 July 2011

Christian convictions

I cannot help poking fun at the annual attempts of evangelical wowsers to organize a ‘Christian rock festival’. Despite a decade of disasters which include, for example, regularly calling the emergency services out to rescue godbothering dimwits on midnight sea-swims, outwardly they have faith that, maybe, this year - at last - all will be well, some kids might turn up and all the finances will not be outgoings.
But I had to laugh, then shake my head, yet again when in their latest missive (see, poker-faced, the organisers claim that:
“Because it is a youth event run by the local churches, all of the artists are asked to sign up to a code of conduct which includes respecting the festival's no alcohol or drugs policy by showing up sober, avoiding inappropriate language or subjects and trying to provide a good role model for the youth.”
I laugh because since the festival first began the volunteers, over the years, seem to have included some fairly unsavoury characters – thankfully mostly long gone, though only twice due to actual criminal convictions here or elsewhere that I know of.
For example, at an early festival one ‘artist’ was a convicted Loyalist paramilitary, also with a separate string of firearms offences, who gained early release by ‘finding God’ and going into the business, with considerable help from the government grants then available to anyone purporting to run a ‘bridge building’ scheme in Northern Ireland.
He later founded an extreme ‘right to life’ group, aping the tactics of US Christian militia, which made a series of serious threats to UK nurses and doctors. That in turn led to more convictions for supporters of the group.
At the time of his Manx appearance, this ‘artist’ was officially bound not to leave Northern Ireland by the terms of his early release order. Knowing of such court orders from my time in Northern Ireland, I happened to ask various police officers not long after how he had been allowed to visit.
I could get no explanation of this obvious omission, despite prior advertising of his appearance and a system of Special Branch checks at the time under the Prevention of Terrorism Act which meant names of any convicted terrorists showed up as soon as their air or ferry tickets were booked. At the time Coleraine police were also investigating an attempt to burn down a family planning clinic, which deed the ‘militant’ wing of his organisation had openly boasted it was involved in.
And things get even more bizarre, because one of his other ‘good deeds’ was an ‘anti-drug’ lecture to Victoria Road Prison inmates. Back then several prison officers would have been former H Block guards who ‘relocated’ to the island as part of a deal between the Manx Department of Home Affairs and the Northern Ireland equivalent, saving the former a fortune training local prison officers and the latter an even bigger fortune in security arrangements which, at the time, were expected to be necessary for not just the serving years but the lifetimes of any police or prison officer.
Not, in short, a gentleman one would choose as a role model for any child, and not one whose government hosts could have failed to know his true character.
I hope recent and current guests and volunteers have less criminal tendencies, but can no longer be bothered to check each year. The only mystery to me is that the annual farce is repeated, but I cannot be bothered to solve that either, only to point, laugh, and be somewhere else when it is perpetuated.

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