Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Sometimes, talk is cheap and silence is truly golden

Causing a stir: the mural of Gerry Adams, which provoked a Presbyterian minister, among others

Sometimes I wonder if we are all being taken for a ride – and I'm not just referring to the Giro d'Italia, which has so colourfully graced our shores this week.

I'm really thinking of the avalanche of publicity which seemed to pitch this province into a dark crisis of confidence, before the clouds seemed to clear and we were able to think again about normal life.

Then we lurch on to the latest political crisis, so – what's really going on?

There is so much bad feeling that spokesmen on all sides need to think much more carefully before they make things a whole lot worse.

Someone once wrote, 'The tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches, but a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.'

These words did not come from some modern guru, as you might expect, but from the Book of James, which was written some 2,000 years ago.

The author is thought to be a brother of Jesus, and his lively little book contains much wisdom, including his timely advice to 'Watch your language'.

You might have thought that these words would have been heeded by a minister of the Gospel in particular but sadly, that is not the case.

Last weekend, the Reverend Mervyn Gibson, a Presbyterian cleric, who is also a senior figure in the Orange Order, mentioned the new Falls painting of Gerry Adams.

Mr Gibson said: "I see they've painted a new mural to him. Sadly, it's not a memorial mural."

That might sound like good knock-about humour in the heady context of a loyalist rally, but even though people are entitled to their point of view, it's not the kind of language you would expect from a Presbyterian minister.

Sadly, of course, others might think that Mervyn Gibson was right, but I am also a Presbyterian and he does not speak for me, or others.

People ask me, "Will the Presbyterian Church do anything about it?"

I suspect not.

However, Mr Gibson is not the only public figure to have made headlines in the past week, during which time Sinn Fein totally lost its surefootedness and indulged in a huge public and disgraceful political tantrum on both sides of the border.

As we all know, they accused the police of interfering in the political process by arresting Gerry Adams for investigations into the IRA's abduction, murder and burial of Jean McConville 40 years ago, and also his alleged membership of the IRA.

The Sinn Fein reactions were predictable.

Gerry Kelly showed again that he has an answer for everything, Mary Lou McDonald demonstrated that she knows nothing about the north and, most disappointingly, the usually shrewd Martin McGuinness entirely lost the run of himself – and thereby lost much of the limited support he has enjoyed among Protestant and unionist moderates.

Ironically, it was Gerry Adams who calmed things down, as did the PSNI in referring the case to the DPP.

You may or may not believe a word that Mr Adams says, but he certainly has aplomb, even if some of his henchmen, particularly the bullies, showed that the nasty side of the republican movement has not gone away.

So, we might all do a lot better if we just took the advice of the Book of James and kept our traps shut.

Maybe that's too hard for our politicians, who fail to realise that many people here are fed up with the lot of them.

Sadly, however, the most powerful voice of all remains silent. That is the tragic voice of Jean McConville.

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