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Prime Minister Theresa May didn't deserve vicious abuse... and we in Northern Ireland shouldn’t be sneered at either

By Alf McCreary

This week Rev Bill Mullally, the outgoing President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, appealed to politicians at Stormont and Westminster "to meet each other halfway for the good of all".

He made his remarks at the start of the annual Methodist conference after a visit to the Messines battlefield where a century ago the men from the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish division stood side by side in one of the most bloody wars in human history.

Rev Mullally quoted the words of William Redmond, a young soldier of that period who said: "The trouble is, men are so timid about meeting each other halfway. It would be a fine memorial to the men who have died... if we could, over their graves, build a bridge of peace and reconciliation between north and south, and wherever there is division in our world. Help us all to be men and women who meet each other halfway."

These were noble sentiments, but tragically young William Redmond died at Messines on June 7, 1917. Nevertheless a century later these sentiments are no less noble, and the Rev Mullally is right to repeat them and to challenge the politicians in Belfast and Westminster (and in many other places as well) to meet each other halfway for the good of all.

However, we know in the hard-headed, cynical and too often bruising world of politics, people pay lip-service to working for the good of all, but then do their darnedest to do down the other side, and manipulate every situation to their own party's advantage.

Even when Northern Ireland makes major headlines and a local party is placed at the very centre of power in London, the political sniping from their opponents begins.

This week I watched yet another programme where politicians set about undermining one another's contributions, almost without thinking of the divisions they perpetuate.

They live in a political bubble from which they cannot escape and they will never realise how much they are resented by the public for their continual squabbling, even by those people who have elected them.

Prior to the general election, a local minister asked voters to chose candidates with strong Christian principles, but even the vicar's daughter Theresa May has shown that a God-fearing politician can make the most awful mistakes. Mrs May is undoubtedly a good woman, and two days after her excruciating defeat she was back in her local Anglican church for morning service.

To her credit, she had the guts to apologise for getting it so badly wrong, which very few politicians have the backbone to admit about themselves.

What is disturbing is the vicious abuse she is getting in the media and from some of her erstwhile supporters, and it is hard to stomach also the sudden praise from some of her "new best friends".

Politics is now such a mixed up world that it is not surprising that Tim Farron has relinquished the leadership of the Lib Dems because he wants to put his Christianity first.

Of course, Christianity - or so-called Christianity - plays a leading role in the DUP which unexpectedly finds itself at the very centre of United Kingdom politics.

I have never been a supporter of the DUP, but I believe that they - and the rest of us - have been sneered at dreadfully by London commentators who depict us as country bumpkins and political crackpots.

The London elitist establishment, and British politicians in general know little about Northern Ireland, and care even less about us unless it is in their interests to find out.

This is so unfair to the people of Northern Ireland. Of course we have our bitter fights in public, and our politicians perpetuate this on the air waves.

We also have our extreme religious oddities but in general the majority of people here are warm, generous and friendly, and they deserve better than this.

Whatever happens in the days and months ahead, there is a huge need for people from all sides on these islands and continental Europe to meet each other halfway.

Cynics, in and out of politics might sneer at this as naive advice, but what have they done so far for the greater good of all of us?

It is only by meeting each other halfway that we will begin to work our way out of the dreadful mess which we have found ourselves in - particularly at Stormont, and Westminster.

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