Admitting you were wrong is not an easy thing. it’s holding your hands up to the world – well, that tiny portion of it which knows you exist – and saying “I did it my way and it stank”. Sometimes that elicits a surge of warmth and forgiveness: we all know that we’ve got it wrong at some point ourselves and we admire the courage of those who are prepared to come out and say they were at fault. Which means there should be more of it about, right? Wrong. Not in our public life. We’ve had a number of instances recently.
As the world and its mother knows by now, Pastor Jack McConnell doesn’t trust Muslims and sees their faith as spawned in hell. Will the good Pastor take that back? Not a word. There he stands, he can no other…Actually he can plenty of others but he chooses not to. Not an inch.
Peter Robinson declares that he doesn’t trust Muslims either, especially the ones that are blowing people up and killing them. Fair enough. No apology needed for that. We’re all in the same boat there, I think it’s safe to say.But then Peter had to go on and say that he would trust them to go down to the corner shop and get his messages. This at a time when he and Martin McGuinness are trying to woo trade with countries which have large Muslim populations. So wil Peter take it all back? Not a chance. Even though he’s as morally and politically wrong as he could be.
And then there’s Jolene Bunting. Ah, little Jolene. Political child of that nice woman Ruth Patterson in Belfast City Council, who would have loved to see the members of the republican parade in Castlederg sent to meet their Maker before their time. She apologied. I think. But somehow the result was not a rush of affection for her from those she wished ill; it was more a watchfulness for what her next outburst might be. Why is that, I wonder?
But back to Jolene. On 18 March 2011 Jolene wrote “I’m so sick of the poor Catholic b******* they make sick”. No, Virginia, I have no way of knowing if she referred tp ‘poor Cathoic b*******’ or ‘poor Catholic bastards’ . But my hunch is that she wrote ‘bastards’. People with those kinds of views tend not to be prissy in their phrasing, while the newspapers that quote them often tend to be afraid Auntie Nellie might pass out if she read the real word…Where was I? Oh yes: Jolene’s semi-literate bad-mouthing of Catholics. Jim Allister’s response was not to denounce his party member’s views but to demand of interviewer Tara Mills if she’d ever done anything she regretted when she was eighteen. Not a very logical response or even impressively anti-sectarian,but it did cleverly switch the spotlight from him as we all imagined what nice Tara might have said or done at eighteen. But Jolene herself? She’s apologised for saying it. Straight out. So why aren’t we feeling rush of affection for this young woman? Ah, that’s because she immediately after she added that she didn’t regret “the content” of what she had said three years ago. You got that? She regrets saying that poor Catholic bastards should take themselves down south, but she doesn’t regret the content. And then she says she was wrong to say ‘Catholics’ when she meant ‘republicans’. So if that hasn’t prompted a veritable gusher of love in you for Jolene, who now plans to use City Hall and not Facebook for the expression of her views, then I don’t know what will.
Pssst. Nothing to do with what we were talking about. But do you ever get the feeling that this is 1968?