Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Friday, 10 October 2008 17:18 UK

Homer embarks on political Odyssey

Jim Fitzpatrick
By Jim Fitzpatrick
BBC NI Politics Show

Simpson family
The Simpsons dabble in Irish politics

"Catholics Rule! We've got Boston, South America and the good part of Ireland!"

Homer Simpson's immortal words in a classic episode a few years ago when Liam Neeson (playing the part of an Irish priest) nearly persuaded the beer-drinking couch potato to convert to Catholicism.

In the end Homer remained a true Protestant because, "once you go Vatican you can never go back again".

Last month the show began its 20th season on US television with an episode featuring St Patrick's Day celebrations in Springfield that turn nasty when the Irish parade encounters an Orange march.

Lisa Simpson's attempt to prevent trouble by encouraging a communal rendition of "Tura Lura" is only temporarily successful.

Celebrations

Full-scale street-fighting ensues. At one point we even see the Hulk wrestling Thing as green-on-orange and orange-on-green violence abounds.

Earlier, as the celebrations get underway with a troop of Riverdancers, Bart asks: "Where's the IRA when you need them?"

The episode was watched by about 10 million US citizens that night on Fox, and will no doubt be watched by many millions more in America and across the world in the days to come. It says something about how this place is viewed from afar.

Essentially, the writers are saying that the "war" in Ireland may be over, but they still hate each other over there.

It's an interesting image and in politics image is everything and the American audience is crucial.

Gerry Adams is just back from the States. Ever since Bill Clinton gave him a visa, he's hardly been out of the place and it's not just in pursuit of frequent flyer miles - although he must surely now have enough to treat the whole assembly team to a pre-Christmas shopping weekend in New York.

Message

The reason Gerry Adams, and others, spend a disproportionate amount of time in the US, is to sell their message to an audience with influence and money.

So, with the executive on hold and the set-up at Stormont beginning to look about as solid as an Icelandic bank, whose message is getting through?

Is it the unionist "we'd love to get on with business but can't because of the evil Sinn Fein blocking tactics", or the republican, "we'd love to get on with business but can't because of the evil anti-partnership unionists".

And in the current climate of global catastrophe does anyone outside of Northern Ireland really care?

On The Politics Show this Sunday, we'll examine who's winning this ongoing war of spin.

And we track the impact of the Wall Street crash to Main Street - literally - as we visit Cookstown to find out how the crisis is crunching there.

See you Sunday

Jim

PS - In these troubled times, a book title catches my eye: "IRA Wealth. Revolutionary Strategies for Real Estate Investment". What's this?

We all know that the Provisionals were well financed and own plenty of property, but can their mode of capitalism help us all beat the credit crunch? Will chapter one offer a detailed explanation of how to earn 26 million in a few hours and then invest it where the authorities can't get it? Apparently not.

The book's not quite as revolutionary as the title suggests. IRA refers to an American financial scheme entitled Individual Retirement Account.




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