If you were listening to Sunday Sequence on BBC Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh this morning, you’ll have heard Róisín McAuley interviewing former Presbyterian Moderator Rev Norman Hamilton. It was a good interview that raised a number of worthwhile questions. The answers it produced were rather less shining.
Róisín asked Norman how he felt about the various bonfires that burned election posters of republicans and a mock-up coffin of Martin McGuinness, with accompanying abuse. Norman said he thought it was very bad and shouldn’t have happened. Then Róisín asked an awkward question: why hadn’t the former Moderator spoken out before the Eleventh Night, not after it? Norman fielded this one quite deftly: if she’d invited him onto the programme a week earlier and asked him the question, he’d have been glad to give the answer he now gave: it was appalling conduct (I’m paraphrasing here.)
Then Róisín lobbed an even tougher question: did Norman, a leading clergyman, need to wait to be asked before he spoke out and condemned such things? Norman accepted that this was a valid criticism, while drawing a distinction between Belfast bonfires and those in other places.
And that, essentially was that. Norman graciously acknowledged that he should have spoken out without being asked and the interview concluded.
How is that enough? Aren’t clergymen of all denominations, but especially those of the Protestant faith, supposed to give a moral lead? Every year it’s patently clear that the dreary procession of band after band, maybe some 3,000, act as an iron curtain of division in this society. It’s the Twelfth fortnight, Fenians keep out of the way. Let’s burn Irish flags, pictures of republican politicians, the occasional statue of Our Lady. And yet Protestant clergyman aren’t taking every opportunity to come out and say “This is bad. We’re supposed to be building a more cohesive society and THIS IS BAD!”
No wonder the British people are in shock when they finally have a look at the DUP.