In Northern Ireland, everything is political. Even the cut and thrust of politics in Stormont outside the chamber. Liam Clarke has the details on Jim Wells near escape from censure by the speaker by a mere two votes.
Unionists voted against punishing Mr Wells while nationalists, the Greens and Alliance voted to suspend him.
So was he actually guilty of breaking a code? No one in Stormont seemed particularly interested in proving it one way or the other. However in a landscape where all politics revolves around the ‘my party right or wrong’ Fionnola Meredith makes an important point:
…it seems to me that Sinn Fein is akin to the straying husband, now committed to matrimonial harmony. He is hurt and outraged because his wife refuses to forget what he’s done in the past, and keeps casting it up to him.
This is exactly the way that Sinn Fein are behaving over Wells’ remarks. In an almost farcically self-righteous response, Caitriona Ruane said that the comments were “about anti-Catholicism, sectarianism and misogyny”, adding that Sinn Fein “will not tolerate bullying behaviour, we won’t tolerate inequality …and we won’t tolerate anyone being treated as a second class citizen”.
Hang on a minute, Caitriona, before you get completely carried away by the sheer force of your own complacent moral piety. Jim Wells may have been guilty of rude, aggressive, inflammatory behaviour. I — like many people — find his personal stance on issues like gay rights, or abortion, repugnant, ignorant and extreme.
But the fact remains that what he said, in this case, was true.
And she concludes:
Sinn Fein regularly lays claim to the secular, rights-based higher moral ground, leaving the holy variety to the DUP enthusiasts, but in this case they are wilfully deluding themselves. It is enough that we have moved on from the foul acts of the anguished past. To mask them with the language of freedom, respect and equality is a step too far.
To mix my literary references, “ORWELL! thou shouldst be living at this hour…”
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty