Last week I was on Talkback disagreeing with the journalist Susan McKay about her charge that Kate Hoey was sectarian — one piece of evidence being that Hoey had attended “a barbecue for the extremist TUV party” (as she wrote in an Irish Times article on January 8).

Published: 25 January 2022


Do Jim Allister and his colleagues hold “extreme political or religious views” and advocate “illegal, violent, or other extreme action” as the dictionary defines extremist?

Do they contravene the UK government’s counter terrorism strategy, as it is defined, by their “vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”?

Actually, no. Quite the contrary.

Jim Allister, I said to Ms McKay, seemed to me to be the opposite of a violent extremist — not least because he objects to sharing power with unrepentant terrorists.

McKay, it turned out, had a very different definition of extremism: opposition to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. And I fear that large tranches of Irish appeasers would agree with her.

I participated in a Zoom debate that evening in which I was saying that a united Ireland would not happen. I became aware, not for the first time, that when I said that Sinn Fein’s pride in the Provisional IRA’s thirty years of terrorism was the elephant in the room, it was viewed by some as a breach of etiquette.

It reminded me of the immortal line of that great journalist Lindy McDowell at one of those moments covering the peace process when we saw morality turned on its head and government viewing the law-abiding, not the paramilitaries, as the problem. “Mr Blair,” she wrote, “Just because I haven’t killed anyone doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.”

For years I’ve been denounced as a war-monger because I say that Sinn Fein is a cancer that threatens the fragile Irish peace. Armies of their supporters hurl abuse at me in the hope of shutting me up.

As Sammy Heenan, orphaned in 1985 when his father was murdered in his yard, put it: “There is a relentless campaign on social media to extinguish dissenting voices and opponents of Irish republicanism. This is orchestrated by endless trolls who attempt to deliver brutal tweets. We the innocent will not be intimidated and will continue to expose this hypocrisy.”

The trolls have succeeded for now in causing SEFF’s Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by the Provos, to lock her account. “Not because I wanted to but because I felt unsafe. Too many are put off raising their head above the parapet.”

And this, as she pointed out, was experienced “not only by direct victims but commentators, advocates, journalists, politicians and those citizens who just care.”

So I was delighted by a private message from a journalist I respect about Talkback. “Just to say, your comments on the use of the term “extremist” have really resonated with me.

“It seems those comments should be permanently attached to those who justifying endless cold-blooded murders of Catholics and Protestants – not those who condemn this and call out the persistent hatred of those who proudly justify this.”

This week, following the hideous murder of Aisling Murphy, we had the stomach-churning spectacle of Mary Lou McDonald and five other female Sinn Fein TDs lecturing the Irish parliament about misogyny and violence to women.

Edward O’Neill, a survivor of the 1974 UVF bombing atrocities in Dublin and Monaghan, wrote in this newspaper (January 22) that “the faux outrage of Sinn Fein is rather despicable and hypocritical and can be only called out for what it is: bandwagon politics.

“Maybe a good idea would be to ask the family members of Jean McConville, Joanne Mathers, Mary Travers, Alberta Quinton , Caroline Moreland, Heidi Hazell and Colleen McMurray — to name but a few — murdered in an IRA campaign which Sinn Fein say was justified, how Sinn Fein stand in the area of the protection of women’s rights.”

Mairia Cahill had an article in the last Sunday Independent about her experiences as a victim of abuse at the hands of violent republicans: her story in 2014 was denounced by Mary Lou McDonald as a “falsehood”. McDonald is now claiming to have apologised, but she never has.

I would have hoped that the Alliance Party would be exercised about this, but no. They have been far too busy attacking Doug Beattie for tweeting a harmless joke for which he has been forced to apologise. Michael Long MLA had been “absolutely stunned”, his wife Naomi “genuinely shocked”, Stephen Farry said it was “not a laughing matter,” and Sorcha Eastwood was horrified that “some women were excusing disgusting sexist remarks as ‘humour’”.

But many came to his defence, particularly Alliance Councillor Chris McCaw who tweeted “I don’t see why anyone would be offended. It was priceless”, the woman who asked if Beattie should be strung up “for the crime of offending the woke” and the bloke who commented “Imagine a country with your gang in charge”.

Last week the one-time Tanaiste and Minister for Justice Michael McDowell wrote that a scenario in which a party “tightly controlled by persons unelected by the people” took over was now thinkable.

Can democrats please focus on the elephant in the room? And remember who the extremists are?

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