Posted By: June 02, 2014


THE aftermath of an election is usually a good time for politicians to release bad
news in the hope that a weary public will not notice. So I was going to write about
the scrapping of the Education and Skills Authority after seven wasteful years at a
cost of some £17 million.

I was also tempted to tear apart the ridiculous decision by Mark H Durkan to approve
a 15 hectare out-of-town development outside of Newry - a decision that makes a
mockery of his declared Town Centre's First policy and one which flies in the face
of economic realities and anyone who actually has walked past the empty sites and
shop units in the city. These are real issues for which politicians need to be held
to account which so often get lost in the fog of tribal electioneering but they are
secondary to the simple but central questions: "What type of society have we spawned
from a distrustful peace?" and "Is what we have as good as it gets?"

Over the past week, countless column inches have been devoted to condemning Pastor
James McConnell's outrageous sermon against the Islamic faith.

One could almost hear the collective sighs of the cappuccino supping liberals,
radical old reds and the supercilious media luvvies raising up like incense - their
moral indignation filling the air - if not the airwaves.

But where have they been living for the past 30 years?

Northern Ireland for all its pretensions to being otherwise is a sectarian, bigoted
backwater that is an embarrassment to London and Dublin.

What kind of language or tolerance did our "good and the great" expect to hear from
a firebrand, hillbilly, Calvinistic street preacher?

The Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle looks like a magnificent monument to the glory
that is James McConnell - a man called to ministry at a mere 17 and whose website
pays testimony to his congregation's ability to pay off vast sums of money.

McConnell seems a totally sincere man albeit blighted by that special form of myopia
only gifted to those single minded and ignorant enough to believe themselves.

And McConnell does believe himself.

He declares that like Christ: "I can afford to be intolerable."

And to an extent he can. We live in a free country and with that comes free speech.
Nothing McConnell said, however distasteful, I would have him arrested in the USA.

What gave media fuel to McConnell's offensive comments were his close connections to
senior DUP members. Quite rightly those charged with governing over us - impartially
and without fear or favour to those of all religions and none; were asked where they
stood in relation to McConnell's comments.

Their answers to that question should have framed what type of country we have spawned.

They could have defended the erratic evangelists right to say what he said as part
of free speech without agreeing with the sentiments of what he said.

But they didn't. They weighed in two feet first into a barrel of tripe that
belittled their status as public representatives.

Had they attempted to act statesmen like - McConnell would have looked like an out
of his depth, ageing preacher with all the credibility of David Icke.

The first minister added to the flames by making clumsy off the wall remarks about
trusting Muslims to go shopping.

In truth, it's doubtful if he meant those words as they came out.

His estranged partner in government, Martin McGuinness was presented with a penalty
kick that he could not refuse. Robinson's slowness to clarify his remarks and issue
an apology were more to do with the current state of his relationship with
McGuinness than any defence of McConnell.

That he eventually meet with and apologise to the local Muslim community was overdue
but to be welcomed as neither Sinn Fein or the DUP seem to find the word "sorry"
easy to locate in their respective lexicons.

There is no doubt Anna Lo exhausted from a gruelling election felt the pressure once
again but that too is the fault of our society - politics and media included - that
seems to have made her the focal point for every racial or minority issue,
conveniently forgetting, she is a MLA who happens to be Chinese not because she is

As we are stuck here for better or worse, the late Maya Angelou may offer some
solace. "The ache for home lives in us all - the safe place where we can go as we
are and not be questioned."

After this week we can only hope.