Some criticism has been made relating to the Belfast Telegraph’s article last week on the extent of influence of the previously little-known Caleb Foundation on the moral agenda of some unionist politicians.
To the uninitiated, the foundation is a religious organisation that supports a fairly literal interpretations of the Bible and which holds strong conservative opinions on many social issues. So far, so (relatively) uncontroversial.
But does the foundation have undue support — or even influence — among several leading politicians at Stormont? That was the question addressed by Liam Clarke over two pages in the Belfast Telegraph last Friday.
The issue was thrown into sharp relief recently by the official inclusion of creationist theories in the Giant’s Causeway interpretative centre.
This, rather predictably, sparked a row about the influence of what is a minority opinion and just how many politicians support it within Northern Ireland’s governing elite.
Certainly, last week’s article established that a number of senior DUP members are very supportive of the Caleb Foundation. The Free Presbyterian Church holds seven of 22 places on Caleb’s council of reference.
The group was described as having a “web of influence” at Stormont — mainly over some DUP politicians.
However, it was also stated that the foundation’s position was “more of a rallying point ... you can’t be a card-carrying member”.
Reaction was generally supportive but the paper has received some criticism from both DUP and TUV quarters — basically, I suppose to the effect that the entire article unfairly singled out those parties.
Samuel Morrison, press officer of the TUV, asked whether the Belfast Telegraph “will run an ‘exclusive’ piece on MLAs who have been educated by Jesuits, or prominent members of Northern Ireland society who are members of Opus Dei”.
The implication of some of the criticism is that the Telegraph ran the story because it sought to embarrass some ‘hardline’ unionists, or senior DUP members.
This is not the case. Our journalists go where the stories take them. Down through the years, the Belfast Telegraph has had many dust-ups with political parties — the DUP, UUP and Sinn Fein included.
We were a thorn in the side of the IRA during the Troubles — and received a killer van-bomb into our building as a thank you.
The point is, the paper seeks to challenge and question and that is bound to lead us into conflict with politicians and others at times.
Incidentally, we also praise our politicians when it’s due and have done so repeatedly when they rise to the tasks in front of them.