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Baroness Hoey criticised for attack on ‘anti-Union activists’

Ex-Labour MP’s fears over influence branded ‘depressingly bleak’


Comments: Belfast-born Baroness Hoey. Credit: Brian Lawless

Comments: Belfast-born Baroness Hoey. Credit: Brian Lawless

Comments: Belfast-born Baroness Hoey. Credit: Brian Lawless

Comments by Baroness Hoey suggesting that nationalists in the media, courts and other professions are using their position “to exert influence on those in power” have been criticised as “depressingly bleak”.

South Belfast MLA Matthew O’Toole has said the comments made by the Belfast-born former Labour MP in a report published by the Unionist Voice Publications reinstate a “tribal mindset”.

Hoey penned the introduction of the report published on Wednesday by the UVPS, which claims that port checks made as part of the Northern Ireland Protocol were “unlawful” and were put in place without Executive authority, seeking to remove them completely by the end of the month.

Within the introduction Baroness Hoey expresses her “concern” over the influence of “anti-Union activism” within key professions such as journalism and law.

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Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, who heads the UVPS, also claimed that the media, academia and law has been “infiltrated by nationalist activists”.

Baroness Hoey wrote: “I support the increasingly strategic activism of young (and not so young) people within the pro-Union community, who are coming together in various ways to develop networks and sharing of ideas...

“I also entirely support the ongoing work to encourage those, especially from working class loyalist communities, to engage in education and to seek entry to professional vocations such as journalism, law, and public service. There are very justified concerns that many professional vocations have become dominated by those of a nationalist persuasion, and this positioning of activists is then used to exert influence on those in power.”

Mr O’Toole branded Hoey’s comments as “beyond bleak” on Twitter and told the Belfast Telegraph that it is “a grim way to start the new year”.

“This is depressingly bleak and is no way to win a political argument,” he said.

“How does she know who is a nationalist and who is not? It is presumably on the basis of old school assumptions made about people’s names or surnames.

“There are many journalists or law professionals I encounter who aren’t politicians and I have no idea what their political views are, but the fact that some people will make these assumptions is a depressing indictment of Northern Ireland.”

The former journalist and civil servant, who is from Downpatrick but represents south Belfast in the Assembly, added: “Lawyers, journalists and academics all engage with policy and public debate in their day-to-day jobs.

“You can’t have a situation in Northern Ireland with an historic division where those people have judgments made about them.

“Confrontation over the protocol is not of anyone’s interest at the minute, we are in the middle of a pandemic and I don’t see how it is in anyone’s interest to start and bring down institutions.”

Political commentator David McCann took to Twitter to comment on the remarks.

He tweeted: “Would like to extend my apologies to those annoyed that I make pro unification statements in the media.

“I will take due care to be more considerate of voicing perfectly mainstream opinions in the future.”

Alliance  leader Naomi Long responded to the tweet: “Maybe you should change profession to one that doesn’t have “too many nationalists” causing justifiable concerns.

 “At times, I really despair.”

Colin Harvey, a Professor of Human Rights Law at Queen’s University, Belfast, also condemned the remarks and tweeted: “The language used today to describe an entire community here will no doubt attract universal condemnation.”

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