Posted by: the watchmen | July 23, 2008

About Iris__________Gail Walker.

Gail Walker: Why media row with Iris just doesn’t add up


Tuesday, 22 July 2008


Let’s get one thing straight — if I can still use that word without causing offence. Contrary to recent publicity in the wake — yet again — of comments from Iris Robinson on the BBC’s Nolan Show, it’s not actually ‘Christians’ who oppose abortion.


It’s actually the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland. And Ireland, for that matter.

In fact, so overwhelming a majority, that those ‘in favour’ could easily be fitted into Stephen Nolan’s studio, thus saving the taxpayer the cost of all those ‘research’ phone calls.

It’s simple arithmetic.

Just as it’s not the tiny minority of IRA members or few dozen Sinn Fein MLAs in government, but the literally hundreds of thousands of voters who put them there.

Just as it’s not a bunch of marginal freaks in the Democratic Unionists who are in government, but the massive numbers of Protestant voters who deserted the gentler ranks of the UUP to make the DUP the largest party in Northern Ireland.

It seems necessary to restate these simple facts every time the media here gets it into their heads that we are still living in the world of Hume, Trimble and Bono in the Waterfront Hall, and republicans and the DUP are scary on the one hand and laughable on the other, and the Alliance Party is, as ever, just about to make the big breakthrough.

Protestant and Catholic, urban or rural, our country is conservative. No amount of phone-ins are going to ‘correct’ that truism and make us all bohemians, run off with Russian girlfriends, advocate gay bishops or think polygamy is a good thing for society.

There is a serious problem in Northern Ireland, yes. But it isn’t what people believe that’s the problem.

The problem is that our media still haven’t got to grips with the new dispensation by which we are governed.

Over the years, the media got into the habit during the ‘Troubles’ of seeking out the minority view — that meant finding someone who didn’t represent any of the main political viewpoints. Somehow that became the sensible view.

Hence people who increasingly represented nobody at all, only themselves, gained access to the media almost by rote. ‘Liberal’ people. The pro-abortion lobby. The gay rights lobby. Conservative party candidates. Those advocating so-called ‘integrated’ education. Or, a favourite of the media, trades union activists who could always be counted on to fly in the teeth of their membership by raising Iraqi flags in protest at the visit of a US president. That type of thing.

These causes — which have their own merits — unfortunately became, for the media, something of a ‘middle ground’. They were causes the media deemed to be ‘good’ and ‘progressive’ and ‘nice’ and it never really mattered that practically the only people who espoused them were the spokespeople themselves.

Whatever the reason, there was always a sense that people who represented the majority opinion were somehow only adding to the problems here, rather than — as we now see — having the answer to them.

The attitude led to the by-now tiresome cry of exasperation on phone-in shows — if only ‘people here’ were more tolerant, were different, weren’t who they were, were somebody else. Which usually translated as nothing more substantial than, “I wish I had gone for that broadcasting job in Manchester after all”.

In narrow political terms, of course, the media wanted to avoid simple Orange versus Green.

But narrow political terms don’t carry the clout now that they used to. And in moral and social issues, the old animosities simply don’t hold. Orange and Green are, as we always suspected, entirely united on social and moral issues.

And it’s in those areas that the media is struggling to come to terms with the new way of things.

Ireland is united on abortion, you see. And on Euroscepticism. In fact, it is a united Ireland on just about every single social and moral issue you care to name.

The freaks now are those who take opposing views.

They are easy to find, if you wish to speak to them. They are the bottom of every single poll in every single constituency in every single ward in Northern Ireland.

And in a few newsrooms across the province.


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