When the Mad Pastor (“Can I have an A – men! “) went on his bile – fuelled rant, most of us shook our heads or laughed incredulously. (Laughs are a social evolution of a fear – aggression response. We laugh because of our discomfort.)
It wasn’t until our First Minister gave a screeching car – crash of an interview where he condoned the hate – speech that most of us stopped laughing. This leader was saying that he wouldn’t trust Muslim members of our community on matters of conscience but would be happy for them to adopt servile positions in society – perhaps running errands or serving him in a shop.
To fix this, the First Minister did two things.
- Firstly he gave further testimony that what he actually said, what we heard him say with his own voice had actually been misinterpreted. That our ears were to blame. This was corroborated by the BBC who later claimed the FM was “reported to have said” as opposed to “he said”. You’re a fool if you don’t think there was political pressure there.
- A machine of reparations began – initially with a politically correct lie in a carefully crafted statement that few will have read to the end, so laced with two faced snake oil it was. This was followed up with a private apology to representatives of the Islamic faith in Northern Ireland.
The problem with this is the respective sizes of the audience.
The initial statements, highlighting the true (and bigoted) positions of the pastor and First Minister have been seen round the world now. To outsiders they are a terrible embarrassment but to people within their coven, they are heroes and that hate speech will justify untold hate crime in the future. In effect, they just told some assholes that it’s okay to be assholes.
The explanation came in the form of text, not audio or video. The audience for this is much smaller. I can guarantee few of the assholes will read it.
The apology was private. We don’t get to see it and neither will the assholes so it doesn’t matter how contrite it was, the people who really needed to hear it are those who will use all if this to justify hate crime.
So what does civic society do?
We normalise it. Our position seems to be that we already know our First Minister is a bigot so there’s no surprise that he says bigoted things. We’ve been told that hate speech is free speech. And we believe them.
And the Stormont Executive, cushy in their inability to do anything effective, will do nothing but bluster and forget. In any other part of the UK, there would be outrage and the First Minister would be ousted as the parties would rally to collapse the Executive if action was not taken. But again they will do nothing. And you should be ashamed of yourself. Have their been any motions for the First Minister to step down and be replaced by any one of his equally bigoted compatriots? No. But even an ineffective punishment is preferable to acceptance.
Is this really the shape of Northern Ireland? Where parties will parade their ministerial bribes ahead of courage, conviction and commitment? How are we to progress when a five parties coalition comprising of over 80% of out elected representatives have endorsed hate speech through inaction?
Not one MLA from the Executive has even threatened to resign over this. Not one party has taken a stand. Not one of them has shown they follow the Nolan principles of public service.
I have NO CONFIDENCE in our government.