Middle-class Catholics have lost faith in Northern Ireland’s post-Good Friday Agreement shared society, sports pundit Joe Brolly has claimed.
DUP “contempt and disdain” is partly responsible for the failure to fulfil the promise of 1998, the GAA pundit and lawyer said, in an interview to be screened on UTV this week.
Mr Brolly said: “If you look, for example, at the ones who should have been building confidence, who could have built confidence, Peter Robinson tried it and he was held back, he wasn’t allowed to do it.
“But you look at the DUP conferences, how could you have any confidence whenever it is this constant sort of contempt and disdain, and you think to yourself, ‘what a pity, you know, things could have been a lot different here’?”
DUP leader Arlene Foster has met Irish-speaking schoolchildren in Newry and even used a few words in a bid to better understand the language.
However, in 2014, the party’s East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell was barred from addressing the Stormont Assembly for a day after failing to apologise for a parody of the expression for “thank you”, go raibh maith agat.
A row developed after he began his address to the devolved parliament with: “Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer”.
In February last year, the DUP was showing little sign of softening its traditional hostility to the language. Mrs Foster said then, amid a “brutal” election campaign, that more people spoke Polish than Irish in Northern Ireland and declared the party would never agree to an Act protecting Irish.
She likened concessions to Sinn Fein, the chief political proponents of a law, to feeding a crocodile.
This led to the appearance of human “crocodiles” at Sinn Fein rallies – and it was the electorate that snapped back by propelling the republican party to within one seat of the DUP and demolishing the historic unionist majority at Stormont.
UTV is broadcasting episode four of Eamonn Mallie: Face To Face With Joe Brolly on Wednesday.
Mr Brolly said: “The reason that the Northern Ireland society is now not going to work – because there was a time after the Good Friday Agreement, there was a tremendous consensus around it and there was a time that the Catholic middle classes, the really important ones, would have bought into a Northern Ireland society, there was a chance for that.
“I think, I sincerely believe that … it is completely gone.”
The former player has previously interviewed Peadar Heffron, a Catholic police officer who suffered devastating injuries in January 2010 when a booby trap detonated under his vehicle.
Mr Brolly claimed his club turned its back on Mr Heffron as he announced plans to join the newly formed PSNI in 2002.
Mr Brolly said that had he been a playing member the dissidents would have never gone after him because it would have been a PR disaster.