Once more, Sunday Sequence on BBC Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster kick-starts my thinking today. Rev Gary Mason of the East Belfast Mission was on and drew a parallel between alcoholism and sectarianism: “I am a recovering sectarian bigot” he told listeners. Good line. Somebody tweeted in that this was a marvellous example of leadership.
Sorry. Can’t agree. If sincere, it’s a good example of openness and humility, but I find myself getting impatient with this “We are all to blame” approach to our problems. I don’t dispute that there’s sectarianism in all of us, to a greater or lesser degree. But saying that and/or conceding that you yourself have been guilty of it doesn’t take us anywhere.
What I’d call leadership would be if a prominent person in the public eye were to say “I am a recovering sectarian bigot” and then list examples of the sectarianism/bigotry they’ve been guilty of and how they recovered from it. Now that would be impressive. That would be leadership.
Nelson McCausland devoted a blog to me some time ago, denouncing me as a sectarian bigot. As I watched Nelson in his Orange sash at the front of the protestors with Nigel Dodds yesterday, I thought how marvellous it would be if , instead of seeing the bigotry in others, our leaders were to acknowledge their own bigotry, citing chapter and verse. And how they’d managed to leave it behind. I think that would be true leadership.
It was Gary Mason also this morning (I think) who commended Martin McGuinness for referring to ‘Derry/Londonderry’. He figured it helped develop confidence within the unionist community. Personally I think it’s an awkward name but if people feel reassured by its use, fine. A bit like Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster, I suppose.
But can I conclude with an appeal? Regardless of your sectarianism and/or repentance of it, please oh please don’t ever, even if threatened with violence, refer to “the island of Ireland”. Except maybe if you’re a geography teacher. We don’t say “the human being Gregory Campbell”. Then please oh please don’t state the bleedin’ obvious when you talk about Ireland.