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Too many of us weighed down by burden of enmity

By Ruth Dudley Edwards

Published 18/04/2016

Mary McAleese
Mary McAleese

Despite the claims of many of my Twitter and other critics, I'm a very poor hater. I blame my parents, both of whom tried to understand the people they disagreed with even if they couldn't stand them.

So, although for the sake of my island I hope Sinn Fein do exceedingly badly electorally, I would get no joy out of seeing any of its leaders stricken by a painful illness.

I'm sick of nationalist politicians quoting Martin Luther King, but I think he got it right with: "Let no man pull you so low as to hate him."

I spent several decades watching the sickening way in which violent republicans demonised their neighbours so as to justify making them targets for murder. It was this that made me furious back in 2005 with President Mary McAleese.

On her way to attend ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz she told RTE that the Nazis "gave to their children an irrational hatred of Jews in the same way that people in Northern Ireland transmitted to their children an irrational hatred, for example, of Catholics".

It was deeply hurtful and crass and she apologised, yet it would have been a reasonable thing to say had she simply added "and Protestants".

Sectarian hatred exists and is two-way. Yet apart from the Rev Ian Paisley and some extreme preachers, who taught loyalists to hate with the help of scripture, it was republicans who made the indoctrination of sectarian hatred an art form, which is why President McAleese's comments made me think of motes and beams.

Hatred was transmitted to new generations of young republicans with the help of endless repetition of real and imagined grievances and images, songs, poems and speeches commemorating those held up as martyred freedom fighters.

The Billy Boys might have been "up to their knees in Fenian blood", but such songs are vastly outnumbered by all those wishing death and destruction on the Crown and anyone loyal to it.

"I learned all my life cruel England to blame," says The Patriot Game, and there was no lack of self-styled patriots stigmatising unionists as brutal instruments of the evil English.

The great hater, though, was a Londonderry Presbyterian John Mitchel. Gifted and unpleasant (he would become an enthusiastic proponent of slavery), he became viciously Anglophobic and the originator of the still-current lie that "the English created the Famine" and that it was genocide.

Patrick Pearse described Mitchel as the "fiery-tongued" prophet of "apocalyptic wrath" who was "the immediate ancestor of Fenianism, the noblest and most terrible manifestation of this unconquered nation".

Being, by nature, a bad hater, Pearse temporised by claiming that Mitchel's hatred was for English misgovernment rather than the English people.

These days, for political reasons, people like Gerry Adams no longer make speeches outside City Hall demonising Orangemen and police, but instead utter unconvincing platitudes about reconciliation.

But if being rude about unionists is off-limits, the haters can always be relied on to find new targets. These days it's class warfare, and it's open season on Conservatives.

The commentator Newton Emerson wrote an excellent article in The Irish Times last week with the headline 'Tory-hating is the last bastion of Anglophobia'.

He was concerned that Colum Eastwood, the SDLP leader, was regurgitating Sinn Fein terminology and ranting about "a Cabinet of Tory millionaires" with "no sense of social responsibility", who are fighting "a Tory class war".

"When Thatcher died in 2013," he recalled, Gerry Adams said it was "understandable" that republicans burned her effigy, but when loyalists burned Adams's effigy the following year Sinn Fein called it "a hate crime".

"Do we really want another intractable divide?" he asked.

Promoting envy, contempt and anger against people because of their background and good fortune is cheap, Mr Eastwood, and it's dangerous - not least when it gives succour to a Labour Party captured by IRA-sympathising class warriors like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

Here's another quote from Martin Luther King: "I have decided to stick to love... hate is too great a burden to bear."

Ruth Dudley Edwards' The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic has just been published by Oneworld Publications

Belfast Telegraph

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