A time and a place…

THE brutal murder of Michael McIlveen has sparked outrage in Ballymena, but there was controversy on Talkback today in a discussion of Daily Ireland’s front page which reported a local DUP councillor as saying: “As a Catholic, he [Michael McIlveen] won’t get into heaven. Catholics are not accepted into heaven”. One reason is because the full quote is not carried on the front page. The councillor quoted is Roy Gillespie, a Protestant hardliner with few media skills. But even Gillespie, whom I’m no fan of, qualified his remarks, as the full quote read:

“As a Catholic, he [Michael McIlveen] won’t get into heaven unless he has been saved. If he did not repent before he died and asked the Lord into his heart, he will not get into heaven. Catholics are not accepted into heaven.”

On Talkback, Gillespie claimed he was misquoted, while the reporter, Ciaran Barnes – a clever and capable reporter who robustly defended his story to the hilt – respectfully disagreed. My view is that Gillespie was misquoted on the front page (beyond a reporter’s control), as Gilllespie’s qualifying ‘if…’ had been replaced by a full stop. The cover gave the impression that the comment ended where it clearly did not.

While Gillespie’s remarks may well have been ill-timed and delivered with the kind of blunt tactlessness you might expect from him, the front page headline just did not include the qualification in the statement.

But why was this a story in the first place? After all, Bannside councillor Roy Gillespie does not represent the area the McIlveens lived in, so why seek him out?

Nor can I think of any public interest in Gillespie’s views on the afterlife of Catholics. No, he won’t attend the (Catholic) funeral of the murder victim because of his deeply-held religious beliefs, but so what? There are other ways of paying respect to the dead. I’d be more interested to know if Gillespie is or will be signing the book of condolence that the DUP mayor has signed.

However, Gillespie – a foot-in-mouth politician who isn’t the sharpest tool in the box and admittedly has trouble separating politics and religion at the best of times – chose to answer the question in his own inimitable fashion, instead of replying ‘No comment’, as most media-savvy politicians would. So why encourage him? Why ask a DUP politician for his theological perspective on a Catholic soul when the Catholic Church would be better qualified? What were Gillespie’s views on the relevant issue, the murder? We don’t know, as they weren’t reported, assuming he had been asked for them.

Roy Gillespie’s comments were undoubtedly badly timed and predictably distasteful, but at least he was forthright and honest in his views. What purpose his views serve at this time are another matter. One suspects that the magnanimous attitude demonstrated by the McIlveens to the DUP party leader at this distressing time might have been the real target; it simply wouldn’t do for the DUP to be responding in the politically-correct ‘right’ way, now would it? The McIlveens have called for a time of healing in Ballymena, where tensions are still high, and while Gillespie might struggle with the concept, Daily Ireland didn’t wish to abide by that call either.

I don’t like Gillespie, nor am I fond of his extreme views and it almost pains me to defend a bigot on automatic-evangelic pilot, but on this occasion, I think he was stitched up big time. It’s a unseemly and unnecessary row over an ideological irrelevance in the wake of a poor kid’s murder.

  • David Michael

    Missy, you obviously thought I was taking the piss, but I was actually being serious 🙂

    Satanism is indeed a religion, but a not very nice one. Its adherents espouse evil and seek the downfall of good and the corruption of humanity. This includes human sacrifice and other tasteful practices.

    So how far can we extend this freedom-of-religious-expression thing?

    Your call.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Miss Fitz

    “Let me see if I have it now. Gillespie has a right to his beliefs and his religious faith. But he cannot talk about it. Um, I still think that infringes on Freedom of expression, or even the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.”

    No it doesn’t. Let’s be clear on this – “freedom of speech” is about one’s right to say what ever one wants without facing sanction from the government or legal system. (I’ll not dwell on the fact that no such inalienable right exists in the UK.) Gillespie’s right to say what he said, and to believe what he believes, is guaranteed. No-one here has called for Gillespie to face legal charges over what he said. Ipso facto, it is incorrect to suggest that this is a freedom of speech issue or that Gillespie’s rights are being threatened.

    What freedom of speech does NOT imply is that all opinions and expressions of opinion must be accorded any inherent degree of respect. One may say what one likes, but everyone else is entitled to make their own minds up on the value of the idea expressed. People on the fringes can say things that most others regards as crazy or downright evil, and those people are in turn entitled to say what they think of those opinions.

    That’s the whole point of freedom of speech – the free exchange of ideas.

    That, I think, is the tenor of the criticisms of Gillespie – not that he had no right to say what he said, but that in exercised his right under the present circumstances, he displayed something of himself – I would say a callousness and a wickedness – that others are entitled to make a judgement on.

    That’s another thing about rights – you can exercise them but you still have to take responsibility for the choices you make.

    “I have no desire to promote Mr Gillespie, and I don’t agree with his ideas. I would fight to the death however for his right to hold his ideas, and to express them. In return, he would respect my ideas and my right to adhere to them.”

    Your final sentence doesn’t necessarily follow from the ones before. I agree with your conviction that Gillespie is entitled to his views, as do fascists and Satanists and others of whom I have a similar opinion.

    However, you say that in return he would “respect my ideas and right to adhere to them”.

    That’s not the same thing. I respect Gillespie’s right to his views but I do not respect the views themselves, nor is it incumbent on me to do so. How can I respect the opinion that I am going to hell? That I am damned?

    No. I don’t think Catholics are inherently more likely than Protestants or anyone else to get into heaven. I think God will be the judge of that, and I have no desire to try and pre-judge anything for the big guy. I think a system of belief is a vehicle, but I think we’re all essentially on the same journey – even athiests, in a way. (Interesting that TAFKABO joked about being an “evangelical atheist” – in a way, atheism is a system of belief too, a belief in science and rationality. Like any religion, atheists go as far as their material knowledge will take them, and then leap. Fair play.)

    So if you ask me, it’s incumbent on those who still use the rhetoric of the Reformation era to decommission their inflammatory speech. (Let’s be honest here – does anyone doubt that it gives the DUPers a thrill to call the Pope “Anti-Christ”?) It’s been many centuries since the Reformation for Christ’s sake. When are we going to see the bellicose rhetoric of those times finally consigned to dusty old theology books, and those debates confined to scholars, and removed from the streets? This week, for the zillionth time, we have seen where it leads.

  • Rubicon

    Answer that honestly, and tell me then what you think of DI (MissFitz)

    I presume you mean in running this story at this time rather than more generally. I think they were correct – next week could be too late and in a society so accustomed to such murders Gillespie’s statements would be too easily shrugged off by those who most needed to heed them. Gillespie choose the timing – not DI.

    I can’t speak for the McIlveen family but I did read in today’s papers that they’ve called for state funding for the loyalist estate still harbouring Michael’s murderers to be held back. I think it safe to conclude the family know what killed Michael and are unlikely to have their own beliefs shattered by the mindsets of the murderers, those who give them succour or the likes of Gillespie.

    It will undoubtedly have disgusted the family to know that a local public representative choose to make such a pronouncement in relation to their murdered son.

    As for your request for “honesty” – I’ll simply set it aside since the implication of my having been dishonest isn’t worthy of you or me.

  • missfitz


    Let me start at the end. Using the word ‘honestly’ was for emphasis, as a form of speech and I trust you would know that. I would under no circumstances accuse you of duplicity, you appear to argue clearly and cogently.

    I see where you are coming from in your argument, and it is entirely valid, and probably the more open and transparent response.

    I am a little more informed now, but I have to say that I go back to my humanistic viewpoint as a mother and still feel that this was one piece of news that could have been held back.

    Billy Pilgrim

    That was a very thoughtful repsonse, thank you. I am a little aware (and I’m not being smart, just a little) of Freedom of Expression being enshrined in the American Declaraation of Rights, and it not being a European thing. Hence my invocation of the UN declaration.

    But, thats not so much the point as the content and context of what is said and where its said. You are calling Gillespie’s comments inflammatory and reformation style.

    I come back to what I said before,its a central tenet of his faith. I’m sitting here trying to use an example of something I feel so strongly in I couldnt change my mind, and I suppose that why I am not a fundamentalist christian, nothing really exercises me that much.

    I followed the interview closely, and Gillespie was not crowing or being triumphal, he was just telling it the way he saw it.

    I dunno, maybe my years in Tennessee have made me so dead to this, but when I lived there in Knoxville, it was daily grist of the mill to listen to fundamental christians and I got very used to hearing their views. In a place like Tennessee it is very much the accepted standard to have those views, or at least was in the time I was there.

    As to the fact that its many centuries since the Reformation: ditto the death of christ, king billy at the boyne, st patrick and his snakes, and all the other commemorative stuff of our lives. Old doesnt make it irrelevant around here.

    Finally, David:

    I was being serious. (emphasis on WAS, I dont use bold or italics now, have been banned)

    If its not illegal, and its someone’s sincere belief, my moral judgement or value belief should not impinge on the rights of others. That is a key ingredient to a tolerant and open soceity.

    DM, you seem to desire openess and tolerance, I am surprised at you on this one

  • ncm

    Does Gillespie’s bible not say “Judge not that ye be not judged.”?

    I’m an athiest, but am under the impression that judging, and sending people to hell’s God’s job, and Roy’s over stepped the line regardless of what version of Christianity he follows. Has he not broken the rules of his own church with this statement? Or am I wrong?

  • missfitz


    He is simply quoting what he believes:
    From wiki:

    In the Protestant traditions, entry into Heaven depends upon the Christian receiving God’s grace through faith in Jesus. Protestant theology holds strongly that when Jesus died on the cross, he took upon himself the punishment for the world’s sins. In contrast with the Catholic position (affirmed and described at the Council of Trent in the 16th century), most Protestants hold that salvation is obtained “sola gratia, sola fide” – by the grace of God alone, through faith in Christ alone – not through living a good life or through belonging to a particular church organisation. Therefore, any person who sincerely has faith in Christ and asks for God’s forgiveness will automatically be granted forgiveness for their sins and has the assurance of going to Heaven.

    Please read this and understand where he is coming from before YOU pass judgement.

    How anyone can hold a religious belief after seeing all of this is beyond me

  • ncm

    most Protestants hold that salvation is obtained “sola gratia, sola fide” – by the grace of God alone, through faith in Christ alone – not through living a good life or through belonging to a particular church organisation.

    So Michael can go to heaven? As catholics believe in Christ. And Roy was wrong?

  • David Michael


    “I was being serious. (emphasis on WAS, I dont use bold or italics now, have been banned)”

    If you were being serious, Missy, then I’ve a feeling you don’t know that much about satanism. Might be worth looking into.

    “If its not illegal, and its someone’s sincere belief, my moral judgement or value belief should not impinge on the rights of others. That is a key ingredient to a tolerant and open soceity.”

    You’re half right. Some satanic practics are perfectly legal now. Others are difinitely illegal, which is why the FBI is forever on their case, as well as many more authorities worldwide, not least the Italians, who have a BIG problem with satanism right now.

    “DM, you seem to desire openess and tolerance, I am surprised at you on this one”

    You’re right. I’m all for openness and tolerance, which is why I expect it from others whom I’m asked to tolerate. Satanists are not open. They do their dirty business under cover of darkness and out of sight. I’m surprised at anyone tolerating them, and your good self of all people.

  • Jo

    “If its not illegal, and its someone’s sincere belief, my moral judgement or value belief should not impinge on the rights of others. That is a key ingredient to a tolerant and open soceity.”

    I totally agree.

    Paisley disagrees with Catholicism. Thats a given, right? He has that right to disagreement. In fact, as I pointed out elsewhere, the vast majority of the worlds population do not agree with Catholicism either. That doesnt make them bigots!

    Is it then (a) the language in which the disagreement is expressed or is it (b)the timing and circumstance of the expressing diagreement that is the problem?

    Mr Gillespie believes that Catholics have a problem with getting to Heaven, thats his belief which he held last year and will hold next year. He also would believe that of a Protestant who was “unsaved?” Again, thats his RIGHT.

    Expressing that specific view in relation to Catholics in the aftermath of a particularly brutal murder of a Catholic child was not good judgement. I still question, as is MY right, the intent of publicising his comment at this time….

  • Dread Cthulhu

    missfitz: “Um, I still think that infringes on Freedom of expression, or even the Universal Declaration on Human Rights ”

    And how does his expression of religious hatred rate? Not wholly up on my British law, but I do seem to recall a religious hatred bill being bandied about, if only for the fact there was something of a seven day sensation over “Mr. Bean” getting political.

    Gillespie was not rationally discussing some point of theological divergence, Missfitz, so let us not make it out as if it were some Oxford debate. It was an expression of sectarian hatred.

    Missfitz: ““Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance” ”

    Ah, but, to use the metaphor, his right to swing his arms ends at the tip of my nose. Arguably, he was doing none of those things with his outburst.

    Missfitz: “In return, he would respect my ideas and my right to adhere to them. That would be a tolerant, accomodating society, and one where we need to be going. ”

    But he’s *NOT* doing that. As such, he should be callled on it.

  • bertie

    Saying someone is not getting to heaven is not an expression of religous hate. Hoping he would would be, there is a difference. Many fundamental prods worry about their unsaved loved ones that is not religous hate, certainly not towards the person.

  • Jo

    “It was an expression of sectarian hatred. ”

    IT WAS NOT. If anything, it was probably said with regret, but thats NOT how DI spun nor what they intended their readers to understand about the comment, and you Mr Lovecraft, can’t see that?

    You interpret the words as “intending” hatred. That is your right, if you are clairvoyant you can back up your interpretation, but only, presumably to other clairvoyants…

  • ncm

    If the bible says judge not etc. and his faith is based around the idea that all men are judged by God, and God alone, then it seems that he is acting outside his religion.

    That aside the man has made statements like this in the past, his religious nature clearly makes the world a better place. If people like Roy can’t speak on God’s behalf, where would we be?

  • GrassyNoel

    The fact that people are willing to even discuss this matter reinforces the points I was making on another thread last week. All the moral relativism that ends up being brought into the equation in some sad, vain attempt to justify first of all the incident itself, and then the reactions of some saddo lunatic like Gillespie, who let’s be frank about it, belongs in a mental asylum, as does Ian Paisley, only serves to further highlight the extent to which people’s minds are bent and twised out of shape by what I can only presume is the accumulative psychological trauma over time of inhabiting a place like NI.

    English – if you’re out there, and reading this thread..you’re dead right, mate. Get out, get yourself and your family the hell out of there as soon as you can, before you risk your children getting caught up in it and potentially throwing away generations of your family’s future.

  • Jo

    I think, Noel, that the fact that people are discussing this is preferable to storming in and giving off about “lunatics.”

    I dont think anyone has justified what is aid. The fact is that many people (former catholics included) of a “saved” background would agree with this man.

    You think Protestant fundamentalists are “insane?” What do you think of a group who believe that something that is patently a piece of wafer is in fact human flesh and blood?
    Are those people “lunatics” too?

  • ncm

    On this one we agree Noel, I and many others would not and could not justify these remarks, and Roy does belong in an institution, though preferably prison. IMHO.

  • GrassyNoel

    Jo – you put the word ‘insane’ in heavy inverted commas asi if it’s a ridiculous notion to consider these people insane. As I argued on the ‘warm-up to the marching season’ thread last week, that is the whole problem with Northern Ireland. The simply unacceptable becomes acceptable, the unendurable becomes somehow endurable, the unmentionable becomes somehow mentionable because of the sheer horror of what everyone has had to live through up there. But what passes for normality in NI is not normality. It’s not even reality. It’s just perceived reality, by both sides, that leads people to ultimately come to accept some horribly twisted version of what they believe to be the ‘truth’, hence the endlessly self-perpetuating cycle of sectarian hatred and violence. People need to rationalise it to themselves, in my view that’s just some kind of a psychological survival mechanism.

    In my view, quite frankly, and I’m not exaggerating, yes, Protestant fundamentalists are insane. So are Catholic fundamentalists, Muslim/Islamic fundamentalists, Scientologist Fundamentalists, Hare Krishna fundamentalists, Jehovah’s Witness fundamentalists, etc. And as for the likes of Ian Paisley/Roy Gillespie and their penchants for biblical firebrand rhetoric, men who go around the place speaking thus are quite insane.

  • Jo


    I put the words in inverted commas lest by not doing so I was accused of being “a bigot.”

    I actually would go along with you in believing all religions to be “non-rational” but serving a deep psychic need – but not one that is present in all people.

    It was posted earlier that expressing the “hope” rather than the honest belief that a dead person would not be in heaven was where the unacceptability (call it “bigotry” or “bigoted hatred” as you will) actually lay.

    Yeah, I’ll agree with that nuance. I know someone who fits the bill by wishing 2 deceased Catholic solicitors in Hell is not present on this thread, well not by their current name, anyway. That person is a bigot, no mistake.

  • David Michael

    Well at last we seem to getting some straight talking on this thread. GrassyNoel, we’re almost eye to eye on this.

    People here have grown so inured to “some horribly twisted version of what they believe to be the ‘truth’” that they imagine our madmen are normal sentient individuals.

    They are not. They are dangerous idiots whose toxic blatherings have cost lives. And we are trying to UNDERSTAND them?

    Missfitz, I always admire your equanimity and common sense so I felt a bit cheap trapping you like I did. But you did fall for it. In your rush to tolerate every crackpot “belief” you were even prepared to sup with the Devil, as it were 🙂

    I said elsewhere that there are absolutes, right and wrong. Some things are just plain wrong, no matter what crazy book you use to try to excuse them. And if someone’s poison is harmful to the point of being lethal then I won’t tolerate it.

  • Rubicon

    Missfitz – yes, fair point, “honestly” can be a turn of phrase rather than a pejorative demand.

    I have a son of the same age as Michael McIlveen and I expect each passing second would seem a pointless pain if I was to loose him – for whatever reason.

    Beyond that, I can’t and won’t presume upon how the McIlveen family try to cope with this tragedy.

    Deferring criticism of sectarianism by assuming that to be sensitive to the family does not seem appropriate to me. It’s an issue that only the family themselves could resolve and – as you recognise – they have enough to be dealing with.

    It was sectarianism that caused this murder and EVERY opportunity to pick this scab off NI’s hide needs to be availed of – even if we do bleed. We’re only 100 years late in doing so.

    On the other posts in this thread – most I agree with – those that I don’t concern the defences of Gillespie as having a doctrinal freedom of expression that is then used to criticise those that challenge his views – NOT his right to express them.

    I think this thread is separating those who think sectarianism has to be tolerated or we sacrifice freedom of expression from who use that freedom to criticise what is said – only then to have all kinds of bogus arguments from the former put forward as to why we shouldn’t have said it.

    Jesus wept!

  • missfitz

    Oh David, I never go down without a fight.

    From wiki:

    Satanic cults
    Main article: Satanic ritual abuse

    The existence of large networks of organized Satanists involved in illegal activities, murder, and child abuse is occasionally claimed. Those claims have not been substantiated.

    Now where were we?

    Ah yes, thanks Jo for stepping in while I saved a bit of the world.

    For Grassy Noel.
    Where would we be without the likes of yourself telling us how bad things are in Northern Ireland. Indeed, as I was motoring around Lough Neagh, I was just thinking what a dreadful place. (not)

    There are serious problems in Northern Ireland. Many of these stem from the 17th century or earlier, and were compounded by partition in 1921. Partition was inevitable.

    Fundamentalists are not insane, they have strong beliefs and are entitled to them.

    Roy Gillespie was the only one who fell into a trap, he should have refused to talk to DI until a more suitable time, but he is driven by his conviction. If he agrees to accomodate my belief with his and not burn me out of my home, he can bleieve whatever he wants, and I can believe whatever I want.

  • Jo

    At least we have the luxury of debating sectarianism rather then dealing with a funeral because of it. I am not sure, but the death of a child means something to those of us who have children that it does not ansd cannot to those who do not. When that death is due to something evil that was handed down from an earlier generation we are all in some sense guilty.

    I used to curse my grandparents for not sorting all this out deacdes ago so I wouldnt have to put up with it, now I realise I am letting it happen again and those who perpetuate the past are building it all up for my daughters generation. Thats why I fight my corner here, because letting the extremes have their way is taking away her tomorrows. Its what I can do.

  • David Michael

    Missy, I can’t believe you’re holding up Wikipedia as evidence of anything!

    Be assured satanists are at work, and maybe closer to you than you’d like to believe.

  • missfitz

    Ah but David Michael, I bet you smiled!!

    Now if you excuse me, I am off to the Fairy Glen for my nightly Wicca ritual……..