Peter Rhodes on war criminals, a new city for Ireland and that troublesome F-word again

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Mussolini – mixed memories?
Mussolini – mixed memories?

Yesterday's item on welcoming three million Hong Kong Chinese folk to the UK may have been overtaken by events. A developer is in talks with Dublin to build an entirely new city in Ireland for those wishing to flee from HK. It looks like a perfect match. The Hong Kongers want to live in a free and democratic state under the rule of law. The Irish authorities are keen to increase the Republic's population. Let the city-state construction begin. Hong Cork?

Only a bad-loser Brit would point out that the last time a lot of foreigners were planted in Ireland and prospered, it went really amicably. But only if you understand the term “really amicably” to mean “300 years of appalling sectarian bloodletting.”

Then there's the issue of a flag for this new city-state. What if the newly-arrived Hong Kongers want to revive their pre-communist HK flag which flew until 1997 and includes a Union Jack? I bet that'll go down well with Sinn Fein.

The city-state idea might just work. But there will always be a certain friction with two groups of people living side by side, one of which loathed and detested being ruled by the Bloody Brits and the other which rather enjoyed it.

Author John Semley makes a good point in a column about the display of Confederate regalia and flags in parts of the United States. Why do people tolerate it, he asks, when no German would ever dream of displaying statues of Hitler or swastika bumper stickers? One lofty answer is that Europe is simply more civilised than the States. But it's not that simple.

A few years ago on a trip to northern Italy, I was surprised to find wartime fascist symbols still proudly carved in the stone walls of a pumping station and local souvenir shops selling tea towels bearing the image of the Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. Mussolini was a war criminal. Yet he is remembered – fondly by some - as the man who drained Rome's deadly malaria swamps and, of course, got the trains running on time.

And if you think ours is a civilised continent, look at some of the war criminals of the Bosnian conflict who, despite all the horrific evidence, are still regarded as heroes by their followers. We Europeans may look at America's slave-owning founders with horror but we have some swamps of our own still to drain.

It's that F-word again. After cops were ticked off for tweeting about the joys of kicking down suspects' doors in London, Meg Hillier MP said the police commander had offered “an immediate and fulsome apology.” I bet he didn't. Fulsome means excessive, insincere or overdone. It tends to be used when people want to emphasise the word “full”which is a word that needs no emphasising. The police chief offered a full apology. The golden rule of English is KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

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