Posted by: the watchmen | August 17, 2008

Why Nuala is testing the trust of Protestants____Linda McDowell.


Saturday, 16 August 2008



Dame Nuala O’Loan says that all Protestants — not some, but all — have been brought up to mistrust Catholics.


She also believes that “this was the teaching of some churches to their people”. She says that she personally would not have expected all Protestants to have been brought up this way. But “I was told by Protestants that they were. And I checked it and checked it and checked it”. Who were these Protestants who told her these things?

Should Nuala trust them?

Her comments on Radio Four earlier this week have understandably provoked immense outrage in Northern Ireland. As sweeping statements go, this is a corker.

Speaking personally I’m not so much shocked, angered and offended by them — more a little frightened.

This is a leading public figure we’re talking about. A woman who apparently believes that an entire section of the community are sectarian and hateful and have had bigotry drummed into them. Often from the pulpit.

Before we go any further it should be pointed out that the debate arose after Ms O’Loan made reference to her role as Police Ombudsman.

“I could never understand why it mattered that I was a Catholic Police Ombudsman,” she said.

Actually what mattered to some (not all) unionists wasn’t the woman’s religion, but the fact that she was married to a prominent nationalist politician. This may be wildly unfair. But believing that a woman (or man) may be biased on account of who their partner is/was, is actually not unique to the unionist community.

Ask Bertha McDougall whose appointment as Victims’ Commissioner was severely criticised by some nationalists purely on account of who her husband was. It’s not even unique to Northern Ireland this sort of thinking. Imagine a woman whose husband is a Labour MP, appointed as head of an independent public body in Britain. It’s not unthinkable that critics there might also raise the question of whether she’d be biased in favour of the government line.

That’s not to say these critics would be right, of course. But such are the slings and arrows of public life.

And it certainly wouldn’t be an indication that all other voters would have been brought up to mistrust their Labour voting neighbours. Or that the local clerics were drumming such dark thoughts into them during morning service.

Who are these churches Nuala refers to anyway? Surely the Protestant friends who gave her an insight into Protestant ingrained bigotry could make this public and we could all go along to hear what they have to say?

Like the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland I readily accept that there are bigots on all sides of the community in Northern Ireland (I include in that so-called liberals without religion who mistrust and indeed hate anyone who doesn’t agree with them).

Despite being a non-believer myself I can actually speak with some knowledge of various branches of the Protestant church in Northern Ireland. And I have yet to enter one where there has been the least hint that Catholics should be mistrusted or ill thought of in any way. (It might startle Nuala to know this applies especially to fundamentalist churches.)

Nuala’s sweeping statement was, she insists, well checked. Given that so many disagree with her, perhaps that was not with the rigour applied to say, an Ombudsman’s Report? Many unionists insist she’s got it wrong. The question is — does Nuala now trust these Protestants and what they have to say?

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