Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Good King Billy, Peter Tatchell, Iris Robinson and David Cameron

I am just back from a couple of days in Belfast, attending one of our training courses in Springfield Road. As always I enjoyed the opportunity to peruse the Belfast Telegraph and the Newsletter for an Irish take on the news.

Big news is Peter Tatchell (who was over for an Amnesty International lecture) has really set the hares running by suggesting great hero of the Unionists, King Billy, had gay lovers. A DUP "spokesman" said "This is the kind of deliberately offensive and provocative comment and shock tactics that he has used in the past." Allied to this story of course is Iris Robinson's outburst. The waiter in my hotel raised this with me, he was outraged that she appeared to have got away with it, something he didn't believe would have happened on the mainland. A letter in the BT suggested that Iris Robinson's comments were made with the sanction of her husband, who allegedly is "now trying to address the problem of Free Presbyterians defecting from the DUP" and was using her in a "missionary role".

And there has been a fair bit of comment on the proposal for a merger between the UUP and the Tories. As I raised a couple of days ago, my concern is that by muting this possibility the Tories give the impression of supporting sectarianism, a view not expressed in the newspapers, but one I found was shared by friends in Belfast. The major problem the Belfast Telegraph sees is that Sylvia Hermon will not be happy since she is more sympathetic to Labour and the consequence may be that the UUP lose their sole MP. However, the overtures being made by David Cameron to the party are seen as throwing them a lifeline.

Flying back last night, over the green and gold rolling hills of County Down and the sparkling still waters of Strangford Lough, I reminisced about leaving over 30 years ago when I had planned to go back to teach once qualified. My life inevitably took a different turn, but I still think Ireland is one of the most beautiful places on earth, blessed not only with wonderful landscapes but also wonderful people. I trust that the sectarianism and bigotry that still exists will not scupper the undoubted strides that have been made towards a real and lasting peace settlement.


3 comments:

Stephen Glenn said...

I never realised you were a fellow Northern Irish exile Linda.

Linda Jack said...

Not exactly Stephen! I was there in the 70's and really didn't want to leave. Must be my Irish blood that made me feel so at home!

L

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