Peter Rhodes on Ireland's shame, vanishing evidence and the days when flying to the moon was easy

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

So easy, back then
So easy, back then

“No-one ever said that flying to the moon was easy,” declared a commentator as Nasa aborted its latest rocket test at the weekend. Ah, but once we did. Between 1969 and 1972, flying to the moon was – with the exception of the doomed Apollo 13 mission – easy-peasy. In fact, one of the reasons for abandoning the Nasa moon landings was that, after six moonwalks, the public was getting bored with them. How odd it is that nearly 50 years after the final Apollo mission, flying to the moon seems harder today than it was back then.

In Ireland, the South had the poets and the North had the Paisleys. For most of the 20th century it was fashionable to regard Irish Republicans as heroic, intelligent and romantic while the Protestants of Ulster were portrayed as selfish, unreasonable and stuck in the past. The Irish state liked to portray itself as a land of saints and scholars. And then the appalling scandal of its mother and baby homes was laid bare.

The world discovered that single mums, regarded as a “sub species,” were mistreated and robbed of their babies at homes run by nuns. An estimated 9,000 children perished; some were buried in the sewage system. It has been a national trauma for the Irish. An opinion column in the Irish Daily Mirror thundered: “The history books are all wrong. Ireland after the Brits left was never a republic – it was a priest-ridden theocracy which treated woman and children as scum.”

The Protestants of Northern Ireland could not have known exactly what was going on in the homes across the border but they knew enough about the “priest-ridden” Irish Republic to regard it with fear and loathing. For nearly 100 years Protestants have been denounced as obdurate and unreasonable for not wanting to join the Republic. Today, as the Irish Government officially apologises for this "dark, difficult and shameful chapter,” we see a bigger picture.

Hundreds of thousands of arrest records have been accidentally wiped from police databases. Or should that be “accidentally” wiped? We all love conspiracy theories and how easy it is to believe this was a cyber-heist, designed to eliminate the evidence against one or more Mr Bigs. I can't wait for the movie.

Anyone else reminded of what is arguably the best evidence-tinkering moment in a film? It happens in The Big Easy (1986) when the heroic but corrupt cop Remy (Dennis Quaid) buys a powerful magnet and chucks it through the window of a bank. How odd. Why would he do such a bizarre thing? Why use a magnet to break a window?

All is revealed. Officers seize the magnet as evidence and it is placed on a shelf in the police evidence room – next to a damning CCTV tape which shows Remy taking a bribe. The magnet wipes the tape clean. Clever. Wicked, but clever.

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