In a small Berlin café a number of ageing ladies hold regular meetings.
It’s a scene you can see in any average town or city, any day of the week. It’s always nice to catch up with family news or the latest purchases over a chocolate brownie or scone bulging with cherries. The only thing at risk is our waistlines. Not so in Berlin.
Those Berlin ladies have a different agenda altogether, one they probably never imagined they would have to fight for. Germany is a sophisticated country these days, holding considerable clout in the European Union having put the awful past behind it or so it seems. And that’s how the ageing ladies who call themselves Omas gegen Rechts (Grannies against the Right) want to keep it. But they have a job on their hands.
They fear the resurgence of the Far-right in their country, now very evident in political life there, and they’re anxious that young people realise how sinister this is.
Their movement actually began in a similar way in Austria in 2017 where “a group of grandmothers, horrified at the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) joining the country’s coalition government, decided to form their own protest group”.
I read of the struggles of the Berlin ladies recently in the Daily Telegraph. Memories of women marching against terrorism from the IRA and loyalists groups here in Northern Ireland came to mind.
Our struggles against the terrorists and thugs were heart wrenching – we never really succeeded in eradicating them from our midst – indeed, many of the worst of them ended up with official ‘comfort letters’; some of them not even seeing the inside of a prison cell.
The German Grannies against the Right are today’s baby boomer generation. Few of them actually remember the Second World War War but they do recall the aftermath, the deprivations, and lost family members. One is quoted in the article: “Nationalism destroyed Germany and brought Germany to its knees...Our children don’t know what it is to live with your life in danger. It’s our responsibility to tell them and our grandchildren.”
We can echo this here because we too have a generation of young people who know nothing of the horrors of IRA activity in the 1950’s (I do remember it then) which led to the awful terrorism of the 70s, 80s, 90s and which still continues. In fact we lost children in this war, even unborn twins as a result of the Omagh bombing.
Women in Germany are bravely taking a stand against the rise of the Far-right – known as AFD (the nationalist Alternative for Germany party) which campaigns on an anti-migrant, anti-Muslim platform. In Hitler’s day the campaign was principally against the Jews. Today’s far-right in the UK – an element of them in the British Labour party – is not only anti-Muslim but anti-Jew as well.
In Germany it is taking groups of ageing women to highlight the seriousness of this; here in the UK, I fear, such right wing views are not being tackled seriously enough. Even worse, in Northern Ireland our very existence as a British state is at risk. Memories of the Prime Minister happy enough to annex us during the early Brexit debate will not be forgotten or forgiven. In some respect we are still at the mercy of the unelected cohorts in control of the European Union who show little respect for
the hapless British politicians who behaved like rabbits dazzled by the headlights of a car.
This lack of care for our future from British politicians who should know better may even be fuelling the war here, because, it hasn’t really gone away.
We know that because of Gerry Adams’ infamous quote about the foot soldiers who were keeping it going.
We can hardly call what we have here `peace’ just as those Grannies against the Right know that the so-called peace they have could be turned upside down at any time if people are ignoring what is happening under their very noses.
Brexit has added to the insecurity so many of us feel. Theresa May intends to take it right down to the wire to March 29, a day when we may need that cherry scone.