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Flautist Sir James's comments strike a discordant note

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 06/06/2015

Sir James Galway
Sir James Galway

Sir James Galway is a world-class flautist, but his remarks yesterday have shown that even musicians with his genius can be well out of tune.

Speaking on BBC'S Nolan radio programme, he rhetorically asked how many lives had been lost during the Troubles because of the political views of the later Ian Paisley.

Sir James, who grew up in a strongly unionist area of Belfast, also talked about the British "occupation" of Ireland - a view that will grate with many here who value their Britishness and legitimately feel that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom.

Galway's comments on Mr Paisley lacked context, because many people also feel that, whatever the former DUP leader's shortcomings, he had the stature and courage to do a deal with Sinn Fein.

Sir James' comments were also deeply hurtful to the family, which Baroness Paisley confirms in today's Belfast Telegraph.

Galway's comments about the alleged "immorality" of the British in Ireland 800 years ago represent the kind of rhetoric that helped to create endless trouble in the first place.

Even Sinn Fein has signed up to the principle of consent and to respecting other people's views of Irish history.

There is a certain naivety in the remarks of a man who accepted a knighthood, and yet espouses Irish nationalism - a contradiction that really should have been explored further by Stephen Nolan.

Sir James's words have also overshadowed the BBC's Music Day from Belfast, and whenever a musician enters the fray of politics, his music will inevitably be drowned out by the din of controversy.

Sir James will remain a great Ulster character, much-loved for his talent and great humour, but even the most gifted musician can lose the run of himself.

Galway should concentrate on what he does best - playing the flute and enthralling his multitude of fans across the world without straying into the minefield of Irish history and politics.

Belfast Telegraph

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