Belfast Telegraph

Kneejerk reactions to harsh truths par for the course

By Liam Clarke

Dup junior minister Jonathan Bell was too quick to apologise for his reference to golf clubs at the launch of Community Relations Week.

"Many communities may not paint their kerb-stones, or put out flags, but scratch the surface and you find the prejudice and the hate whispered behind closed doors, or joked about in golf clubs, or over dinner parties," Bell observed.

The Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) were up in arms, seeing the minister's statement as a slur on the sport.

They should get over it. As it happens, golf clubs are immune to some equality legislation and the illustrious Royal County Down operates separate men's and women's clubs, both playing the same course.

Bell wasn't addressing such practices, or saying that golf promotes bigotry, any more than his reference to dinner parties was aimed at the hospitality industry.

His point was that bigoted attitudes and jokes can be heard in the salubrious surroundings of a golf club and not just in working-class estates. Bell could just as easily have said a lounge bar. His point was well-made.

We need to face reality and examine our own attitudes - not get prickly, or deny the obvious. Very few of us are above prejudice and only a fool could imagine joining a golf club would change all that.

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