David Latimer’s speech: if an opportunity; one he missed completely

Following on from Mark’s blog with Rev. David Latimer’s speech to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, I thought an analysis of the speech from a unionist perspective was maybe worthwhile. I have already suggested some possible motives for why Latimer said what he said. However, leaving aside the poor delivery, the preening, the media chasing and anything which might though accurate be described as man playing: why was it nonsense and incorrect?

The first reason is simple whataboutery. Whataboutery is actually entirely appropriate in this case. Latimer called Martin McGuinness “one of the true great leaders of modern times.” If a Christian cleric wishes to describe anyone as that they must perforce analyse the man of whom it is said and his actions. To pick two British / Unionist / Protestant names and two Irish / Nationalist / Catholic ones. Jeffrey Agate was the works director of Du Pont: he was actually English and was not involved in any “legitimate target” occupation. He was, however, murdered by the Londonderry IRA of which Martin McGuinness has admitted being the deputy leader a scant few years before; and it is far from clear when he left the IRA. Then there is Joanne Mathers the 29 year old mother of an infant son who took a job as a part time census worker: she was murdered in 1981; incidentally she was a Presbyterian, not that it makes any difference.

Turning to Catholics / nationalists there is Patrick “Patsy” Gillespie who was forced by the IRA to drive a proxy bomb to Coshquin army base and was murdered in the resulting explosion. Mr. Gillespie was killed in 1991. At his funeral Bishop Edward Daly stated of his killers “…the complete contradiction of Christianity. They may say they are followers of Christ. Some of them may even still engage in the hypocrisy of coming to church, but their lives and their works proclaim clearly that they follow Satan.” Then finally there is the case of Frank Hegarty whose mother was told by McGuinness “Don’t worry, I will bring him home to you.” His body was found a few days later, hands bound behind his back, eyes taped and with bullet wounds in the back of his head.

Those are all cases of whataboutery, plain and simple: however, if David Latimer as a Christian minister wants to proclaim Martin McGuinness “one of the true great leaders of modern times” then it is perfectly legitimate to ask Latimer: what of this innocent blood? What involvement did McGuinness have, what does he know and refuse to tell, for refuse he does, of those deaths.

Turning to Latimer’s claim that we all share the blame for the Troubles. This is yet again an untruth by any normal analysis of morality: Protestantism, Catholicism or practically all other religious and secular moralities. Those who committed wicked crimes from whatever community are wholly personally responsible. Furthermore even to try to blame unionists for the discrimination prior to the Troubles is utterly flawed. A whole community cannot be “to blame”: that is the sort of collective guilt which is considered unacceptable in all moralities. Furthermore Latimer as a man in his 50s at most, was most unlikely to have been responsible for any discrimination prior to the Troubles. I, as a forty year old, (far from the youngest Protestant in Ulster) was not even born when civil rights started: as a babe in arms I was unlikely to be capable of much discriminating; as such I cannot accept any guilt for what happened in the past. Furthermore Latimer singularly failed to explain how the supposed collective guilt of the unionist community here for discrimination prior to 1969 in any way justified the murderous actions of the IRA up to and even beyond the ceasefires.

Ironically there is a mechanism by which fundamentalist protestantism might sort of agree with Latimer’s analysis of guilt. Latimer as a Presbyterian holds to a Calvinist analysis. By that we are all guilty in what is called “Total Depravity”. However, that is a theological concept relating to the inability of humans to please God and earn salvation: not the stuff of politics nor even of conventional responsibility and guilt in a worldly setting. The Total Depravity of Protestants (or anyone else) is relevant and apt before Almighty God, not the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis.

Indeed that is another failing of Latimer’s speech. Evangelical Christians (and Latimer affirmed his belief in being born again and that he was a born again believer to a caller on the Nolan Show on Friday) would have hoped that the first evangelical Christian to be given the opportunity to speak to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis would tell them of the need all of us have of personal salvation. However, of such things, which to evangelicals are far more important than mere politics or the things of this world, Latimer said not a word. From an evangelical point of view Latimer missed an enormous opportunity to preach the Gospel of Christ and Him Crucified.

In terms of political unionism Latimer’s speech was also utterly flawed. His presentation of an ultra liberal “lets get along-erism” was breath taking in its liberalism. Not even the most liberal elements of the Alliance Party would have lauded McGuinness or heaped so much praise on Sinn Fein without hint of criticism nor call for reciprocation. In that Latimer failed singularly to tell Sinn Fein what unionists think of, or want from republicans. The more naïve and foolish republicans may see in Latimer’s comments a weak and divided unionism. Some might see it as a sign that their “unionist engagement” strategy is working. Many years ago when I first started commenting on slugger it was on a thread on unionist engagement and I suggested that the odd ultra liberal unionist would take unionist engagement seriously. Here is an example of that. The problem is that for the naive republican this will be seen as a sign that unionists’ objection to the republican analysis of the past, present and future is wavering and that they are succeeding. Such republicans may then mistakenly interpret the views of unionist workmates and the like who make no comment on politics as being the same as Latimer. That would lead to those republicans being sorely mistaken about the nature of the unionist body politic. Those republicans in the RoI, seeing so few unionists, would be particularly in danger of this error.

Republicans with more understanding of unionists will know that the speech was the pointless comments of a man on this issue utterly out of touch with his own community or else so desperate to please his audience that he was willing to say almost the opposite of what most of his community thinks. As such republicans have gained no insight into the minds of unionists save maybe to note that if one helps give one specific Presbyterian clergyman £1.6 million that specific individual will say pretty much anything. Hardly a sound basis to make strategy or policy on.

More sober minded and wiser republicans may well have found the speech utterly pointless. Yes they will have enjoyed seeing one of “the other side” fawning over them and their deputy leader. However, as an ambassador to unionists in terms of making republicans acceptable Latimer has by his speech become a busted flush. He is now of no use to them as any sort of Trojan Horse into the metaphorical Derry’s Walls of unionism. Rather (to continue the Londonderry analogy) Latimer at one bound made Robert Lundy seem like George Walker.

Those republicans who have had to deal with unionist politicians, especially the First Minister, will have discovered that although Peter Robinson can be polite and business like with them he has not been lured into views like those of Latimer. Robinson might have been pleased when McGuinness commiserated with him over his troubles last year but in no way has that stopped Robinson from being a unionist. Robinson may nowadays wear a velvet glove superficially similar to David Latimer’s but whilst in Latimer’s case that glove hides a fist of blancmange, in Peter Robinson’s case the fist is assuredly chainmail. Peter Robinson not David Latimer is leader of Ulster’s unionists.

Latimer’s speech then, shorn of its sycophancy, gained republicanism no insight into unionist thinking; it did not present republicans with the political or theological analysis of any part of the unionist community. As such Latimer failed totally in the aims he set out for himself beforehand.

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  • Limerick

    galloglaigh,

    You have put up evidence which proves that you are wrong.

  • galloglaigh

    Na, it proves what the rest of the world, but a few bitter loyalist, know what is the truth.

  • C’mon, Limerick and galloglaigh. Neither of you is going to change the mind of the other. Agree to disagree and move on. You’re both mired in the past. Nothing can be done about the past; the future offers lots of possibilities.

  • galloglaigh

    I agree Joe, I’ve made my point adequately. That’ll do me!

  • BluesJazz

    galloglaigh

    Some facts:
    The British Army (unlike the religious paramilitary murder squads they were defending the populace against) never had a bias.

    http://www.vexen.co.uk/military/religion.html

    • Although 86% of military personnel say they are Christian, less than half believe in God. Of those who believe in God, very few actually know about their stated religion.
    • People are more honest about their religious beliefs in informal polls where there is no pressure to put the ‘right’ answer. 1150 respondents on a poll put:
    ARRSE.co.uk poll (2011 data)5

    Atheist 40%
    Agnostic 18%
    Religious (weak views, unlikely to take part) 25%
    Religious (strong) 17%

    Can PIRA or their loyalist counterpoints claim such widespread belief-or lack of? Can Sinn Fein?

    many Tories are openly Catholic i,e,. Ann Widdicombe.

    The British State and military are, and were, non sectarian.
    Can the same be said for the Irish Republic?

  • Greenflag

    “The Troubles were started because the IRA wanted a united Ireland”

    Even now there is no United Ireland and from what I read and see the Republicans seem quite content to share power with ‘unionists ‘ and get on with the job of trying to ‘normalise’ politics in NI . Had the Unionist Party in the 1960’s half listened to John Hume and Gerry Fitt they could have avoided most of the crap -but even the pragmatic and intelligent Brian Faulkner was unable to control the reactionaries and backwoodsmen who were quite prepared to ‘no surrender ‘ until not a human being was left alive in Northern Ireland .

    Time to move on and accept the GFA as about the only hope that NI has at this time that can prevent the neanderthals on both sides from ‘resuming ‘ their bone headed violence against ‘themuns’

    jesus wept again

  • galloglaigh

    BluesJazz,

    Like I said before, the sectarianism of the British army is well documented.

    Can you explain to me why the British army murdered innocent nationalist citizens, for no other reason than their political beliefs? Why was Daniel Hegarty, a 15 year old child, murdered in front of his home?

    While you might like to portray the army as the peace keepers, the various reports released recently, and the various files uncovered recently, say that your view is a myth.

    Have a wee look through this website, and tell me the British army weren’t sectarian.

    Also, a question: If they were in N.Ireland to keep Catholics and Protestants apart, why were almost all of their more than 400 victims Catholic?

    I would like you to answer that please.

  • galloglaigh

    P.S. BlueJazz

    The Irish government have never murdered their own citizens because of their religion. If you think otherwise, prove it!

  • DC

    Time to move on and accept the GFA as about the only hope that NI has at this time

    Well not necessarily true, the main hope NI has is the subvention from Britain running at around 7.5 billion.

    You wouldn’t get that out of the ‘free state’ never mind a good friday agreement or two!

  • BluesJazz

    Agree totally Greenflag.

    But the religious/sectarian quicksand is not far below.

    The local sectarian placebo assembly has very little power. But the British government (which funds -and effectivley runs- it) and the RoI government who ‘advise’ it are on ‘power down’ mode.
    Which means parochial populism at the expense of real growth. We got that today with the tuition fees debacle.
    expect more of that, but it’s better , much better than it was.
    Mostly thanks to the army.

  • galloglaigh

    BlueJazz

    I’ll post this again shall I?

    BluesJazz,

    Like I said before, the sectarianism of the British army is well documented.

    Can you explain to me why the British army murdered innocent nationalist citizens, for no other reason than their political beliefs? Why was Daniel Hegarty, a 15 year old child, murdered in front of his home?

    While you might like to portray the army as the peace keepers, the various reports released recently, and the various files uncovered recently, say that your view is a myth.

    Have a wee look through this website, and tell me the British army weren’t sectarian.

    Also, a question: If they were in N.Ireland to keep Catholics and Protestants apart, why were almost all of their more than 400 victims Catholic?

    I would like you to answer that please.

  • Greenflag

    @ galloglaigh .

    ‘why were almost all of their more than 400 victims Catholic?’

    That was just a coincidence 🙁

    BTW thanks for that website -and what happened to the Ballymurphy massacre website I looked at just a few moments ago ? Was it taken down / Did you link it in one of your posts on this thread or was it on another ?

    I’d reiterate Joe C’s comment above -no point in wasting your time with the likes of Limerick above . Chap is a one track anti Irish -anti anything associated with Ireland nutter and probably close to needing psychiatric care .

    Stop feeding him -I have . There is criticism of SF and the IRA which is valid enough from a ‘unionist ‘ perspective and then there is the utter horseshite which comes from the pens of the ‘limericks ‘ on this site .

  • galloglaigh

    Mostly thanks to the army

    Would that be the same army that was up to the same dirty tricks in Iraq?

  • BluesJazz

    galloglaigh
    All (or most) of the British Army ‘victims’ in 1945 were German- also mostly Catholic-they had ‘Gott mitt uns’ on their belts- at least the SS men found at Belsen were.
    All had crucifixes on them when the horrid Brits shot them.

  • galloglaigh

    No coincidence, simple sectarianism!

    Here’s the link again.

  • Greenflag

    @ bluesjazz

    ‘but it’s better , much better than it was.’

    And for that you might think some people would be grateful .

    ‘Mostly thanks to the army.’

    Had it not been for the Army intervention in 1969 it’s possible that deaths would have numbered in the 40,000 -100,000 range and the NI 6 county State would have been repartitioned and their would have been even greater population movement with probably tens of thousands of NI unionists ending up as refugees and of course the Republic’s economy would have been destroyed and it’s ‘democracy ‘ put at risk or even subverted .

    And it can happen again if economic , social or political circumstances arise in which the civil authorities are seen as powerless or bigoted in favour of one side or the other .

  • BluesJazz

    As we’re getting into ‘black helicopters’ territory, time to leave the tinfoils to indulge.
    Watch out for those chemtrails galloglaigh.

  • galloglaigh

    BluesJazz

    That doesn’t answer the question.

    I asked why, not for a comparison to Nazi Germany. Innocent Catholics do not compare to Nazi Germans. I take it you don’t have an answer, that’s why you made the dumbfounded comparison.

    So why were almost all of their recorded victims Catholic? Why did they only fire their weapons in Catholic housing estates and districts?

    The simple answer is sectarianism, pure and simple!

  • BluesJazz

    Yes Greenflag
    You can lead a horse to water,
    Don’t worry, the Army are still there to contain if gallo gets his way

  • galloglaigh

    Bluejazz

    Play the ball dude!

    Would that be the same army that was up to the same dirty tricks in Iraq?

    So why were almost all of their recorded victims Catholic? Why did they only fire their weapons in Catholic housing estates and districts?

    The simple answer is sectarianism, pure and simple!

  • galloglaigh

    My way is to never see another British army soldier in this country. And for Catholic and Protestant, nationalist and unionist to unite for all our benefit. The British army deepened the wedge with its sectarianism.

  • BluesJazz

    galloglaigh
    There are about 3,000 of them stationed here. I see them in our local ASDA, well behaved, if a bit ‘teenage’ , like they are. Non-operational of course, but i didn’t see any sectarianism, even if they were all scouse , apart fom a few geordies who were obviously gippos.
    You would never have known that these teenagers were dripping with imperial venom as they checked out the ASDA own brand cheap toothpaste. Maybe they were checking to see that it had been made in an Anglophile nation.
    Or….and this is your fear, what if they were just kids, doing a job, no religion, cynical about politicians , just beer and girls on the agenda.
    But that wouldn’t suit your (or SF’s) ‘vision’.
    get a life son

  • galloglaigh

    BluesJazz

    just kids, doing a job

    They did a nice job in Basra!

    You still can’t explain why almost all of their recorded victims in N.Ireland were Catholic? Why did they only fire their weapons in Catholic housing estates and districts? Do their weapons only work when aimed at Catholics?

    Can you explain, or can you only avoid?

    The simple answer is sectarianism, pure and simple!

  • BluesJazz

    Yes. I had a drink with Frank Kitson over G&T’s at his new posting in Ulan Bator. Decent bloke, Eton, Oxford, the Circus. Hopes John Hurt gets to play him in the film.
    Pity Sir Alec has gone and all that old bean.
    Don’t know anything about catholics, not my cup of tea old boy!

  • galloglaigh

    BluesJazz

    You still can’t explain why almost all of their recorded victims in N.Ireland were Catholic? Why did they only fire their weapons in Catholic housing estates and districts? Do their weapons only work when aimed at Catholics?

    Can you explain, or can you only avoid?

    The simple answer is sectarianism, pure and simple!

  • BluesJazz

    Don’t know old bean
    Ask the family of Brian Robinson?

  • galloglaigh

    BluesJazz

    You still can’t explain why almost all of their recorded victims (Brian Robinson being one of a few exceptions) in N.Ireland were Catholic? Why did they only fire their weapons in Catholic housing estates and districts? Do their weapons only work when aimed at Catholics?

    Can you explain, or can you only avoid?

    The simple answer is sectarianism, pure and simple!

  • Limerick

    “Also, a question: If they were in N.Ireland to keep Catholics and Protestants apart, why were almost all of their more than 400 victims Catholic?”

    galloglaigh,

    Simply because the people who were trying to kill them came from the catholic community.

  • galloglaigh

    people who were trying to kill them came from the catholic community

    Well that just sums you up Limerick. Because a small minority of the nationalist population shoot at the British army, they are justified in killing anyone from that community. Most of the victims murdered by the British army were innocent. The truth, thanks to the HET and the Ombudsman, is coming out. And rightly so. You cannot blame an entire community, for the actions of a few.

    Just something to refresh your little brain. Since we know now, that the UVF were bombing, not only N.Ireland, but the Republic, and murdering and beating Catholics to death well before any Catholics ‘started shooting at the Brits’, why then did the British army not also shoot Protestants for the actions of a minority of that community’s actions?

    That’s right… Because they were as sectarian as the UVF or UDA.

  • Neil

    Sinn Fein talk about outreach to the Unionist commuinity. Cue howls of derision from our Unionist friends. They get a Protestant minister to address the party conference. Unionists go apoplectic.

    DUP leader Peter Robinson talks about getting Catholics to vote DUP. Unionists preen and cite NILT surveys which show 100% of Catholics support the Union and no one votes Sinn Fein.

    UUP talks about outreach, gets a couple of Catholics to temporarily support the UUP (until the UUP’s mask slipped). Party leader expresses support for said outreach by labelling SF supporters as scum.

    From a shinner point of view they did great. All the bitching above underlines the success of the whole thing, the most bitter Protestants are going nuts, plenty of Protestants express their support to Latimer on Nolan, and Sinn Fein achieve what they set out to achieve with this maneuvre.

    Hopefully Latimer’s address can help draw more Unionists to examine what they get from their representatives, especially those working class Unionists who can only dream of five pound land deals, who have to choose between the bible thumping decidedly middle class DUP or the Conservative Party’s former bed wetter, sorry I mean fellow.

    All the bile from those who will never cease their hatred of SF and all the nationalists who vote for them just underlines our success. Maybe it’s just jealousy that their own party of choice’s ‘outreach’ has failed utterly.

    I’ll say no more on this one but this: an unmitigated success for SF. No amount of keyboard warriors spouting bile here will change that simple fact.

  • Greenflag

    @ galloglaigh ,

    ‘My way is to never see another British army soldier in this country. ‘

    A laudable sentiment and hopefully some day it will come to pass . On the positive there are many fewer today than there were which is in itself a mark of progress.

    ‘And for Catholic and Protestant, nationalist and unionist to unite for all our benefit. ‘

    An even more laudable sentiment . But that’s a matter for the all the people of Northern Ireland to decide and so it has been agreed by referenda on both sides of the present border and it’s a part of the GFA .

    ‘The British army deepened the wedge with its sectarianism’

    While I don’t doubt that there were within the British Army elements that could be described as sectarian and while I don’t doubt that some of them committed atrocities against the Irish nationalist and republican population in Northern Ireland -I’m also aware that the same community -i.e the Irish nationalist and republican predominantly catholic population did welcome the arrival of British Army troops as their only means of protection -once it became clear that the local B Specials and RUC had basically turned into a paramilitary sectarian force which could not be relied on to protect the Catholic community in Northern Ireland from loyalist and unionist mobs .

    In every war there are atrocities committed by all sides . Even the best trained soldiers are not immune from wreaking vengeance on enemy combatants and civilians . When ‘armies ‘ descend to the level of sectarian militias then the chances of atrocities are raised . This we have seen in the Balkans , Iraq and Afghanistan and in Somalia and in the Congo .

    For me the worst atrocities of the ‘troubles ‘ were the Enniskillen bombing , the Bloody Sunday killings, the La Mon bombing , the Darkley massacre.,the Miami Showband killings . I’m sure others could list their own personal dare I say it ‘favourite ‘ slaughters -but what’s the point ? The dead to repeat are not coming back .

    There is the larger issue of ‘order’ in society . In the absence of an ‘army ‘ with the power to maintain civil order then in societies like Northern Ireland the descent to widespread chaos and mass murder can be guaranteed such is ‘human nature ‘ That human nature transcends all borders and no people on earth are immune from it’s ramifications in the event of civil disorder .

    HMG became quickly aware in 1969 that the then Unionist government had lost control over the NI situation and were in descent mode to a situation where tens of thousands of deaths were becoming imaginable and where hundreds of thousands of people in both communities would have been forced into ‘refugee ‘ status across these islands . It was bad enough as it was .

    I would think that both yourself and Limerick would not be keen on a return to the ‘troubles ‘ . Best to look to a political future which can be agreed at the ballot box . Anything else will just loose the dogs of war again in which of course the ‘losers ‘ will be all the people of Northern Ireland and indeed the entire island .

  • Barnshee

    “You still can’t explain why almost all of their recorded victims (Brian Robinson being one of a few exceptions) in N.Ireland were Catholic? Why did they only fire their weapons in Catholic housing estates and districts? Do their weapons only work when aimed at Catholics?

    Can you explain, or can you only avoid?

    The simple answer is sectarianism, pure and simple!”

    Might also be something to do with Protestants in ” housing estates” NOT shooting at them, NOT blowing them up etc.

    Whats this “Catholic housing estates” I thought catholics didn`t have houses?

    “I’ll say no more on this one but this: an unmitigated success for SF. No amount of keyboard warriors spouting bile here will change that simple fact.”

    Hilarious Latimer has shot himself in foot a poor deluded fool consorting with murderers watch his sad decline

  • Barnshee

    “Most of the victims murdered by the British army were innocent. ”

    What were the people murdered by thw IRA/Roman Catholic community guilty of?

  • galloglaigh

    What were the people murdered by thw IRA/Roman Catholic community guilty of?

    Nothing, and that is exactly my point. I have said numerous times, that the actions of all the groups involved in the troubles were wrong. Can you say the same about the British army.

    Your last wee comment is a bit hypocritical to say the least. You cannot place an entire community, into the same bracket as a small minority within that community. You say the IRA/Roman Catholic community murdered Protestants, yet fail to acknowledge that the UVF/UDA/Protestant community murdered Catholics.

    When will unionists stop hijacking this victim hood that both communities share?

    Get over yourselves ffs!

  • HeinzGuderian

    If it wasn’t so tragic it would be laughable !

    pira,who murdered more ‘innocent catholics’,than any other combatants put together,are lauded as heroes,by some of out nat/rep chums ?

    When pira death squads started this dirty,little,sectarian skirmish,they were under the somewhat childish illusion that they could ‘shoot to kill’,without being shot at in return.
    They sowed the wind. They subsequently reaped the whirlwind !! 😉

    Get over yourselves,ffs.

    Indeed. 🙂

  • galloglaigh

    If it wasn’t so tragic it would be laughable !

    UVF, who murdered many ‘innocent Catholics’, are lauded as heroes by some of out loyalist/unionist chums!

    When UVF death squads started this dirty little sectarian skirmish, they were under the somewhat childish illusion, that they could ‘shoot to kill’, without being sought by the forces of law and order (some of these law enforces were militant loyalist, and many more gave their comrades false information, that led to the murder of innocent Catholics).

    They sowed the wind. Now they are reaping the whirlwind 😉

    Get over yourselves, ffs.

    Indeed. 🙂

  • Limerick

    “Well that just sums you up Limerick. Because a small minority of the nationalist population shoot at the British army, they are justified in killing anyone from that community.”

    Perhaps you could point out where I said that? I merely pointed out the fairly obvious fact that casualties caused by the British army tended to come from the community in which the people who were shooting at the soldiers happened to come from.

    That absolutely common sense fact would be obvious to anyone with any semblance of a brain.

  • Limerick

    “why then did the British army not also shoot Protestants for the actions of a minority of that community’s actions?”

    When Protestants were shooting at British soldiers the army reacted with extreme ruthlessness. I suggest that you google The Battle of the Shankill.

    The fact remains though that for the vast bulk of the Troubles the army was under attack from only one section of the community. Therefore it is unsurprising that the bulk of the people who died at their hands came from that community.

    Your claim that the British army is sectarian is another brand new one and just as laughable as your claim that the Troubles were started by the police. The amount of crap that has been packed into your brain is frightening.

  • Kevsterino

    Where did the ball go?

  • HeinzGuderian

    ‘UVF, who murdered many ‘innocent Catholics’, are lauded as heroes by some of out loyalist/unionist chums!’ gall

    Name One on here,dear friend ??? 😉

  • Indeed, Kev. Mick is missing out big time by not running a Spot the Ball contest on threads like this.