Cyprus Avenue, Cyprus Avenue again, Say Nothing

Monday, 25 March 2019

▲ Back in 2015 I went to Belfast to see Van Morrison perform Cyprus Avenue – his wonderful  1968 track from Astral Weeks – on Cyprus Avenue. I’d already seen him run through Astral Weeks, that classic favourite, at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2009. In 2015 it was Sir Van’s 70th birthday and he was celebrating with two concerts on the leafy and affluent East Belfast road, name checked in the Cyprus Avenue track and on Madame George in Astral Weeks

Then a month ago in London I saw Stephen Rea – Academy Award nominee for his role in The Crying Game – in the play Cyprus Avenue at the Royal Court. The play had done the rounds from London to Dublin, Belfast and New York and was now being revived, Rea ‘plays an Irish Protestant Unionist who becomes convinced his infant granddaughter is actually Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in David Ireland’s violent absurdist comedy.’ It does not end well.

There’s a lot of back story to this because for years in Britain you were not allowed to hear Gerry Adams’ voice, so if he appeared on television whatever he said had to be dubbed in by somebody else. That somebody else was often Stephen Rea. Plus from 1983 to 2003 Rea was married to Dolours Price.

◄ I’ve just read Say Nothing by American writer Patrick Radden Keefe. Its subtitle is ‘A True Story of Murder & Memory in Northern Ireland.’ The person murdered was Jean McConville, 38-year-old recently-widowed mother of 10 who was marched out of her Belfast flat in late 1972, driven from Northern Ireland across the border to Ireland and executed by the IRA. Dolours Price was certainly one of the people who drove her across the border and may well have been the person who pulled the trigger. The people who ‘say nothing’ in the book certainly include Gerry Adams. He does, however, say he was never a member of the IRA – although Brendan Hughes (who definitely was an IRA member) said that everybody knew Adams was an IRA member, ‘the people on the street know it. The dogs know it …’ So did Dolours Price kill Jean McConville on Gerry Adams’ orders? Well Adams is saying nothing.

It’s an intriguing read with terrific reviews in The Economist and The New York Times and by author Roddy Doyle, also in The New York Times. Now pretty soon Tory Party Brexit promoter Jacob Rees-Mogg may manage what Gerry Adams and the IRA could not achieve, he may manage to unite the two Irelands.