There were two DUP representatives on the radio this morning – Gordon Lyons and Gregory Campbell. The former was on B(ritish)BC Radio Ulster and the latter on RTÉ Radio One. They were both, of course, asked about the rioting that has been happening for the last week. The difference between the questions asked the responses produced was striking.
Gordon Lyons was asked about the fact that Arlene Foster had met with representatives of illegal loyalist groups such as the UDA and the UVF, and the fact that Arlene Foster had not met with and had no plans to meet with Simon Byrne, the Chief Constable of the PSNI. This, Mr Lyons tried and failed to explain away by saying something to the effect that the Chief Constable had not asked for a meeting.
He was also asked about Arlene Foster’s expression of dismay that rioting was occurring, while labelling Sinn Féin as “the real criminals” for attending the funeral of Bobby Storey. Mr Lyons failed miserably to explain away his leader’s odd tilt away from the burning and violence in the streets of Belfast and elsewhere, and towards “the real criminality” of the Bobby Storey funeral.
In the RTÉ interview with the DUP’s Gregory Campbell, Mr Campbell was given a clear run to condemn those attending the funeral of Bobby Storey and the need for the Chief Constable to resign. Mr Campbell also tut-tutted about the violence on the streets, but he was able to make it clear at length where the problem lay: with the Chief Constable and Sinn Féin.
I have more than once criticised the B(ritish)BC for its presentation of politics here. This morning, however, the presenter Chris Buckler was tenacious and focused in pointing to the absurdity of a political leader who meets with representatives of illegal paramilitary organisations but doesn’t meet with the Chief Constable, and who looks at the Storey funeral and declares that to be where the ‘real criminality’ lies, rather than on the nightly assaults on the police and press by young people, with loyalist adults applauding their actions.
RTÉ, for reasons of its own, avoided any such hard questions and gave Gregory Campbell a clear run to air his indignation at the Chief Constable and at Sinn Féin. Is there any limit to RTÉ’s determination that unionist leaders are treated with the softest of kid gloves, while republican leaders get the knuckle-duster treatment?