Monday 31 January 2005

Mary McAleese is wrong.

Though "wrong" doesn't even begin to do justice to the astounding idiocy of her remarks. For those who haven't already heard, this is what the Irish President used the Auschwitz commemorations as an excuse to say:

They gave to their children an irrational hatred of Jews in the same way that people in Northern Ireland transmitted to their children an irrational hatred, for example, of Catholics, in the same way that people give to their children an outrageous and irrational hatred of those who are of different colour and all of those things.

And, suddenly, all the stupid attitudes that make Ireland a problem have been brought out into the open again.

McAleese is wrong in four ways. Firstly, she's wrong about the Nazis. If she knew a damn thing about the rise of Nazism in the 1930s, she'd know that one of the interesting things about it is the way it created Jew-hatred out of nowhere. Sure, of course there were some antisemitic Germans before Hitler came along, but they were the exception, not the rule. Holocaust survivors tell of being rounded up by men who used to be their best friends, of being spat and screamed at by children who used to play with their children. German Jews regarded Germany as a land in which they were totally accepted as part of the nation — and, until the 1930s, they were right. Hitler didn't exploit a hatred of Jews that most Germans had been nursing for generations; he took people who liked Jews and made them hate them, apparently using little more than the power of rhetoric. Even sixty years on, it doesn't make a damn bit of sense.

Secondly, McAleese is deeply wrong about Northern Irish Protestants. She seems to have bought in to the IRA's propaganda on this one — or she's doing her bit to help spread it. The IRA like to present Northern Ireland as containing two communities who are kept totally segregated because one of them hates the other with a vengeance, and their PR has certainly succeeded: that's what most people outside Northern Ireland think it's like here. People who feel a bit more politically sophisticated think that it's not so one sided: that both sides hate each other with a vengeance. McAleese seems to be one of those people, judging by her pathetic attempts at an apology:

I said that people in Northern Ireland who taught their children for example, to hate for example Catholics, and I should have gone on to say, and Protestants, because the truth of the matter is that, of course, sectarianism is a shared problem.

Great. She's trying to make up for insulting Protestants by insulting Catholics as well. The truth of the matter is that Protestants in Northern Ireland do not bring up their children to hate Catholics and neither do Catholics bring up their children to hate Protestants. People here just aren't like that. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland do not give a shit what religion you are. That's why the IRA have had to use so much violence over the years to try and keep the communities segregated: if the Protestants and the Catholics hated each other anyway, the IRA wouldn't need to beat Catholics to a pulp for fraternising with Protestants. The "community" that most people here hate is the terrorists — and you don't need to teach your kids to hate them, as they're so inherently hatable that your kids will work it out for themselves.

Thirdly, she's wrong about the purpose of commemorating the Holocaust. Even if she were right about Northern Ireland, so what? Why can't she simply remember and honour the dead without nattering on about her problems? It shows a lack of empathy; it's insensitive; it's crass. You know those people who just can't listen to your woes without going on about theirs, without relating it all back to themselves? This is the same, except she's doing it to six million people, and they're all dead. How dare she? Guess what, Mary. This is not all about you.

And she's wrong if she thinks this excuse cuts the ice:

I was trying to make a point and I made it very clumsily indeed. I am the first to put my hands up and say I made it very clumsily indeed.

What's she trying to say here? That she clumsily said something that she doesn't really think? That seems very unlikely. If she doesn't believe that Protestants teach their children to hate Catholics, why would she accidentally say that they do? No, what she means here is that she clumsily let her beliefs out in public. Apologising for that isn't good enough. She needs to apologise for the beliefs themselves. And I note she hasn't done that.

Here's some bollocks from one of her spokesmen:

The President's record of equal and sincere support of both communities in Northern Ireland is well documented

Yes, and? There's no contradiction here. All that means is that she supports Protestants despite thinking that they teach their children hatred and bigotry. This just helps her to pat herself on the back about how incredibly brave and forgiving she is for talking to those nasty Catholic-burning Prods. What she should be doing is talking to Protestants in order to demonstrate that they're just perfectly normal people, as deserving of her attention as anyone else. Now we know that that's not how she feels. Ian Paisley Jr is right (though typically histrionic) when he says:

Her mask as being a healer of divided peoples has slipped. She is spewing out hatred of the Protestant community, whilst accusing those same people of hating Catholics.

So, in summary, she's managed to insult Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and anyone with half a brain. And she gets paid for her diplomacy.

The media's reaction has been slightly annoying, in a way that is difficult to explain. Imagine that the President of France had said that all Englishmen hated West Indians. How would the media report the reaction? Well, they might well get statements from Tony Blair and Michael Howard, and maybe Ken Livingstone and another politician or two, but they wouldn't stop there. They'd get public reaction, too: they'd send a reporter into the street to ask random passers-by what they thought; they might set up a phoneline for people to ring in and vent their spleen. The Sun would probably run an opinion poll on whether French men dress like poofs. None of that happens when it comes to Northern Ireland, because the media always assume that everything that happens here is a matter of clashes between political groups, and that therefore they only ever need to talk to the usual handful of politicians. I haven't seen one report that mentions how offended ordinary people are by McAleese's comments — only reports which say that a politician has said that the comments are offensive to ordinary people. Look, not everything here has to be mediated through spokesmen for the four parties and two churches. Talk to the public for once. And if you did talk to the public, you might start to realise that this has nothing to do with Unionism or Republicanism.

The BBC:

Mary McAleese has been criticised by unionists


It provoked outrage among unionists


seen by the Orange Order as a slur on the Protestant community of Northern Ireland.

This is nothing to do with Unionism. I know Protestant Republicans. Her comments are offensive to Protestants (and her later comments are just as offensive to Catholics) no matter which government happens to be in charge of this province. Her comments would still be offensive if the Orange Order — who do not exclusively represent Northern Irish Protestantism — did not exist. Presenting this as some sort of feud between political factions is grossly misleading.

Finally, it's good to see that, amongst all the furore, someone has remembered what she should have said:

The Jewish community was upset she did not take the opportunity to apologise for then Taoiseach Eamon de Valera's condolences to Germany on the death of Hitler.

Damn straight. Irish "neutrality" [spit]. Put your own house in order and leave us alone.

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