Cromwell and my dad have some wisdom to bestow on sanctimonious Alliance leader
An occasional plea I heard from my father, which still causes me to question my judgment, was: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” Not many Catholic children in 1950s Dublin were exhorted to learn from a 1650 entreaty to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland by Oliver Cromwell — perhaps the most loathed name in Irish nationalist history — but my father aspired to objectivity.
Because my parents encouraged scepticism, I was able to break out of the religious and political straitjacket of the Ireland of my childhood to write warts-and-all biographies of nationalism’s patron saints and open my mind to Ulster Protestants and even the demonized Orange Order.
I am also blessed with friends in life and on social media who often eloquently disagree with me and sometimes cause me at least to modify my opinions.
Which doesn’t mean that I don’t take sides. I’m a harsh critic of violent republicanism and of the IRA/Sinn Fein cult I believe to be a cancer on our island. But why am I now in some kind of silly low-grade war with the saintly Alliance leader Naomi Long?
Because I find her annoying, that’s why, because I have a low tolerance for sanctimony and cry-bullying.
Last year I was genuinely shocked by the treatment meted out to DUP councillor Graham Craig by Mrs Long and some of her colleagues.
Having, in a cycling debate, paid the Belfast City Council chief executive Suzanne Wylie an innocent if slightly clumsy compliment (her “whizzing past me… does quicken one’s step slightly”), he was accused on video by self-styled “progressive liberal and feminist” Nuala McAllister as having subjected Ms Wylie to “horrific sexist comments” too “vile” to quote.
On Mrs Long’s Facebook page I read grotesquely abusive words like “dehumanising”, “slimy”, “moron” and “dinosaur”, with the DUP “a horrible backwards party”.
Rather than asking her supporters to calm down, Mrs Long contributed “sleazy” and “creepy”, and accused the hapless councillor of, in effect, saying Ms Wylie “had a nice a**”.
When told he’s registered blind, she said that didn’t stop him being capable “of some sight and of sexism”.
This is a woman who demands “respectful” debate and who, last week on Stephen Nolan’s Top Table, unctuously told two participants: “Maybe both of you should be a bit more temperate in the way you express your views.”
Remembering this and having been following Alliance pretty closely and been disturbed by its naivete vis-à-vis Sinn Fein, in my annual New Year light-hearted column about who should be expelled from Northern Ireland I suggested Mrs Long because her party “is dominated by a self-congratulatory group of virtue-signallers, who seem to regard being socially conservative as morally more offensive than extolling dead murderers”.
At some stage, in a social media post, she described me as “Just another Poundshop Katie Hopkins,” which made me laugh.
Admittedly Mrs Long did demand that Barry McElduff apologise for his Kingsmill-related performance, but she reserved her excoriation for two unionists: the DUP’s Christopher Stalford and the UUP’s Doug Beattie for being among those retweeting Brian John Spencer’s brilliant cartoon depicting the Kingsmill van with 10 lines of blood leading straight to Gerry Adams bellowing about equality.
This, said Mrs Long with outrageous pomposity, was “irresponsible, inflammatory and insulting behaviour which is unbecoming of their role”. On Facebook I posted a thoughtful article by the well-respected Mick Fealty about truth and satire and steered it to her: ‘Please desist from tagging me in your postings…” she responded. “Move on and stop stirring the sectarian pot.”
Being morally on such lofty ground, Mrs Long seems unable to bear to be criticised or lampooned. My polite response set her off, and in various posts the article described by others as amusing and “tongue in cheek” was denounced as character assassination, mean-spiritedness, venom, and a “churlish, unpleasant and personally vindictive piece of poison pen”.
Oh, and it fuelled hatred and intolerance that could have unintended consequences: supporters suggest I’m setting her up for murder — an old Sinn Fein method of closing down discussion.
Think Cromwell, Mrs Long.
Just because you think you’re better than the rest of us doesn’t mean you’re always right.
And here’s another piece of wisdom from my dad. You should learn to laugh at yourself.