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Trump crosshairs cover: If it had been Obama, response would have been different, writes Suzanne Breen

Just imagine if a mainstream publication in Northern Ireland put one of our politicians with a sniper's target over their head on its front cover.

A photograph of Arlene Foster, Michelle O'Neill, or Jim Allister with cross-hairs on their temple, accompanied by the caption 'Why Not'.

There would be understandable outrage and a chorus of condemnation. If the offending outlet was the UVF magazine, The Purple Standard, or republican publication, An Phoblacht, it would be bad enough.

But if it was a respectable publication, the outcry would be far greater. It would be regarded as advocating the assassination of a democratically elected politician. Public figures and human rights groups would queue up to vent their fury.

Yet Village Magazine in Dublin has published a highly controversial cover of President Donald Trump in a gun's sights, and there's barely been a cheep out of the usual suspects.

Had it been Barack Obama's face, the response would have been very different. We would be rightly hearing about how this was an incitement to hatred by fascist thugs.

BBC and Sky News teams would be reporting live from outside The Village's Ormond Quay offices. Whether we personally like Donald Trump or not is irrelevant. He is the elected president of the American people and he has no greater or lesser right to life than those who came before him.

Politics in the US, just like in Northern Ireland, can be a very violent place. Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords miraculously survived an assassination attempt in 2011 when she was shot in the head. The Democrat was left with a severe brain injury and is paralysed down one side.

President Kennedy's murder in Dallas in 1963 is a stark reminder of the dangers any US president faces.

Pro-choice activists live in the shadow of gunmen and bombers. Four doctors providing legal abortions have been shot dead, and there have been thousands of other incidents including attempted murders, assaults, and anthrax threats by anti-abortion extremists.

Dr David Gunn was assassinated in Florida after he had appeared on wanted-style posters. So the dangers of creating a climate of hate in American politics are well known.

It does the liberal elite's cause no good when they choose to employ the very tactics that they lambast the right-wing for.

The accompanying article in Village Magazine debates "what is to be done" about Trump. "So perhaps the solution is tyrannicide. As he might say himself - 'take him out'," it asks.

It concludes that killing him is "unnecessary and disproportionate", and that he will likely resign or be impeached anyway.

Village insists that it's not advocating Trump's assassination on the cover and that the 'Why Not' is an explanation, not a question. That may well be grammatically so but first impressions are everything.

The ordinary person will look at a picture of Trump with cross-hairs superimposed on his head and the words 'Why Not' and they will interpret it as a call to kill him.

If an image appeared elsewhere of Village magazine's office turned into a bomb site with the caption 'Why Not', I believe that management would interpret that as a threat to the lives of themselves and their staff and would immediately contact gardai.

It seems to be lost on Village as to why even debating whether Trump should or shouldn't be assassinated is unacceptable.

During our conflict, loyalists may have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of killing Gerry Adams, as the IRA similarly gave consideration to shooting Ian Paisley. But this was a debate confined to paramilitaries acting outside the law, it wasn't one put on the agenda by journalists.

The Alliance Party accused its unionist rivals of demonising it in literature that it claimed whipped up the tensions which led to attacks on the party's offices, and death threats to its representatives, during the flags' protests.

I believe that literature was inflammatory yet, thankfully, it went nowhere near the level of having an Alliance politician's photograph with a sniper's target over their head.

I don't like Donald Trump and I strenuously object to many of his policies. But I can't understand how many of those up in arms over his temporary travel ban on seven nations weren't equally incensed while President Obama launched more than 26,000 drone strikes on countless poor Muslim countries.

Obama dropped a bomb every 20 minutes of the eight years he was in office. And Hillary Clinton spearheaded the bombing of Libya, creating thousands of the refugees Trump is trying to keep out.

So here's the question. Did Village Magazine ever take the dramatic step of publishing an article considering whether Clinton or Obama should be assassinated in the name of world peace? Somehow, I think not.

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