Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lord Laird Loses It... Again!

The bête noire of rationality, Lord Laird of Artigarvan, has put his foot in it again by claiming: “When I consider Irish nationalism as practised by the Irish Government and their many supporters, I am appalled at what I see - an inward-looking, monocultural sectarian state.” These words appeared in an article he penned for the Belfast Telegraph.

Is this man on medication? Does he not recall how ridiculous David Trimble looked a couple of years back when he spewed the same kind of bile about the south?

In case the Noble Lord hasn’t noticed, the Republic of Ireland now has a rich tapestry of national and ethnic cultures within its society. A simple walk through Dublin shows how the nation’s capital is fast becoming a melting pot, as people come to live in Ireland from Eastern Europe and beyond. This is fuelling a continually expanding economy and increasing the living standards of people south of the border.

Lord Laird has paid many trips to Dublin, but clearly he didn’t bother to glance out the window of the taxis he took to get there at the taxpayers’ expense.

Conversely, Laird’s beloved ‘Ulster’ (or more accurately Northern Ireland), continues to be seen as the race hate capital of Europe. Only the other day, five immigrant workers’ homes in Moygashel were attacked, with bricks being thrown through their windows. And far from it being areas which espouse ‘Irish nationalism as practised by the Irish Government’ which display the greatest racism, attacks are vastly more numerous in loyalist areas such as the Village in south Belfast.

But then perhaps Lord Laird doesn’t go near these ‘common’ areas lest he catch tuberculosis or something, so maybe he doesn't know about this.

Likewise, the economy in the north, in stark contrast with the south, is on its knees relying on government hand-outs to stay alive.

Laird further comments: “The operation of the Cross Border bodies has been an eye opener for many of us in unionism. We can see that standards of Irish governance and particularly of political and religious discrimination are now being stealthily introduced into Northern Ireland.”

Safe in the knowledge that he doesn’t have to rely on votes to maintain his place in the House of Lords, Laird mustn’t bother to listen much to the unionist business community- while wrangling continues over the formation of an Assembly here, Strand Two of the Good Friday Agreement (North-South Cooperation) is being embraced by people of all backgrounds, as they recognise that it benefits people on both sides of the border. Indeed, across the political spectrum, there was very little criticism of the SDLP’s recent ‘North-South Makes Sense’ proposals.

Laird then turns his attention to his beloved ‘Ulster Scots': "The UK is not perfect but for anyone who wishes to celebrate their non-Irish culture in a multicultural society it is much more acceptable than the option of the Republic.

“Can anyone seriously suggest that Ulster Scots or Unionists should give up their freedom for involvement with a monocultural, narrow society?”

Firstly, does he think the United Kingdom gives a toss about Ulster Scots? Secondly, no one is asking him to give up his identity. In fact, I’m sure quite a few Orangemen will testify that it is a lot easier to get the go-ahead to stage a march in the Republic than it is in the north (notwithstanding the idiotic attacks on O’Connell Street earlier this year).

Laird’s insular hatred of anything which isn’t consistent with the tired and obsolete belief in Big House Unionist hegemony is more suited to the 1930s.

And isn’t it a bit rich for Laird to talk as if ‘Ulster Scots’ would be treated as second-class citizens in a United Ireland? After all, I’m sure most of us are aware of his fellow Ulster Unionists’ opinions on Catholicism, such as Lord Brookeborough’s appeal “to loyalists, that wherever possible, to employ good Protestant lads and lassies,” or Prime Minister James Craig’s statement: “All I boast is that we are a Protestant Parliament and Protestant State," or more recently, Prime Minister Terence O’Neill’s ‘kind’ comments in 1969 that “if you treat Roman Catholics with due consider and kindness, they will live like Protestants in spite of the authoritative nature of their Church..."

Either Lord Laird has conveniently forgotten the position which his party has historically taken in relation to the concept of pluralism, or he simply doesn’t have a sense of irony.

As we reach a critical period of negotiation which will hopefully bring about devolution, comments like those expressed by Laird are a wholly unwelcome distraction- a bitter reminder of the past. It is time that Reg Empey, despite his own problems, started to show leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party. He must force outmoded commentators like Laird to remain silent unless they have something positive to contribute- otherwise, reconciliation and cooperation is made all the more difficult. []


Anonymous said...

Why do you listen to him?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to have to point this out Mr Matador but your comments betray you as exactly the type of insular and backward looking stereotype Laird pokes fun at.
Don't you have mirrors in the Free State? :)