It’s not a peculiarly local phenomenon, but do the institutions of the peace process promote victimology? How long will it be before someone demands the creation of the Northern Ireland Hurt Feelings Commissioner?I’ll use myself as an example: I’m not overly fond of Orange marches, so what’s my solution to the ‘problem’? Simple. Let them march. It’s a question of freedom of assembly. People who are incensed by Orange parades are free to organise counter-demonstrations. Surely we can express our differences without running to the state for mediation or compensation? Moreover, if one opposed marches is one not also damaging the right of everyone, including themselves, to march, protest or assemble should we ever want to?
Some might argue that history is such that it makes the North a ‘place apart’ from Britain or the South and that opinions must be respected more here, that people must be treated more gently. I contend that this is not true. Being offended is not very nice but it is a fact of life. If I was so inclined I could be offended every day by reading various items in the newspapers. The answer? Learn to live with opinions you don’t agree with or argue back.
Conall posted today about what he described as an “online hate group” targeting Romanians. On his blog, O’Conall Street, Conall suggested that the Assembly get involved. But is inviting politicians to restrict freedom of expression anything but a bad idea?
The sentiments on the Facebook group Conall discovered are pretty appalling but they are, for the most part, idle talk. Where they represent (circumstantial) evidence of a crime it is up to the police to investigate. Otherwise, shutting down so-called ‘hate groups’ amounts to an attack on free speech and also confuses the means of communication with its content. Ideas that one might object to can also be shared on paper but there are no calls to ban stationery.
In October the art critic and academic Dan Jewesbury wrote about loyalists appropriating the Garden of Reflection in Bangor’s Kilcooley estate. Officialdom wasn’t much impressed with the loyalists’ actions, but anyone who was genuinely offended was, I would suggest, on the lookout for things to be offended about. The loyalist tablets added to the garden are what they are and they represent some amount of local sentiment. They are not something to get whipped-up into a froth about.