Belfast Telegraph

Gail Walker: Since when did Santa wave a tricolour?

By Gail Walker

It sounds like a rejected scene from Give My Head Peace. Santa's reindeers and helpers in Cookstown have been accused of nationalist bias at the turning on of the town's Christmas lights by wearing what seem to be green, white and orange tri-colour scarves.

Local DUP MLA Ian McCrea says he's been contacted by Protestant families who felt excluded by the incident.

The story has caused much mirth with many claiming that McCrea is being petty. Ho! Ho! Ho! Such an uptight blue nose!

But who's really being petty? Those who thought tricolour scarves were just festive fun - or those who took exception? And why does a man in a raindeer suit need a scarf anyway?

The SDLP's Patsy McGlone: insists it's all "ludicrous", asking: "... who really thinks a snowman and a reindeer would set out to offend anyone by wearing these colours? I don't know how anyone can take offence ... I cannot believe that Ian McCrea has taken the time to comment on something like this ... when people are losing their jobs ..."

I hate to shatter Mr McGlone's child-like innocence but they aren't really snowmen and reindeer.

They're not from Lapland, but from here - with all the historical baggage that entails.

And why doesn't he understand how anyone can take offence? Where's he been living all these years? Surrey?

Presumably, Mr McGlone would be just as relaxed if at another Christmas lights ceremony in, say, Carrick, Santa wore an Orange collarette and thrashed a Lambeg.

Who could complain about that? After all, there's a recession on ...

After four decades of slaughter, this land is planted from end to end with equality legislation. For good reason.

Presumably, this event was sponsored by Cookstown Council which has a legal duty to ensure a politically neutral event. If these were tricolour scaves, then they have singularly failed in that obligation.

The donning of political colours is never good clean fun, but always an attempt to get one over on the other side. And guess what? It always ends up with someone getting a pointy stick in the eye.

Christmas is a time for sharing and laughter, not for shifty dealing from the bottom of the deck ...

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