Belfast Telegraph

Nelson McCausland's Lundy reflex typical of a man stuck in past

By Susan McKay

Many, many things in this sweet old world make Nelson McCausland angry. He is a man of fire and brimstone and ever vigilant. Dinosaurs upset him. Plays often fail to entertain him. Blasphemy lurks. Those who do not 100% agree with him to the point of donning a sash and standing in the middle of the road put him past himself with rage.

A couple of weeks ago, he devoted his Belfast Telegraph column to patronising and insulting James Galway, who had revealed himself in a BBC interview to be critical of bigotry. Then McCausland turned his attention to me. The BBC had invited me on to Evening Extra to discuss the controversy. He began as follows: "She was born into a Protestant home in Londonderry. I found that an odd choice of commentator."

Ah! The Lundy charge. The only crime is disloyalty. 1689. No surrender. I was to be revealed as a traitor to my people. Adding insult to the injury already caused by Galway, the man from Tigers Bay.

However, instead of addressing what I'd said, McCausland plunged back 30 years (the blink of an eye in biblical time) to an article I wrote in 1984, as a spokeswoman for the Belfast Rape Crisis Centre, in Republican News.

After quoting my reference to the metaphorical rape of Mother Ireland by British John Bull, he stated that in the same issue there was a report of the IRA's murder of a former UDR soldier. On the basis of this, he opined that the BBC "as a public service broadcaster should really be more circumspect and careful in its choice of commentators ..."

The 1984 article, spread over two pages, was, in reality, a challenge to republicans. After the line McCausland quoted, I went on to write that what women needed was a commitment "that in any new Ireland there will be no rape of Irish women … by Irish men". I wrote the article as a guest contributor. It is beyond belief that McCausland would use this to seek to connect me to murder.

As it happens, I also had a piece published in Ulster, the magazine of the UDA. Our media strategy, as feminists campaigning within a society that was tolerant of rape, was to reach everyone. We knew women were being raped by men who held themselves up as defenders of their communities. We wanted those men to know it. We were feisty and principled and we supported traumatised women from all backgrounds.

I do not think the BBC asked me on because I was born into a Protestant home in Londonderry. (And, besides, we were never great churchgoers and we called it Derry.) I think maybe it was because I wrote the book Northern Protestants - An Unsettled People, described in the Belfast Telegraph as perceptive, intelligent and definitive. Maybe because my other northern book, Bear In Mind These Dead, was shortlisted for the Ewart Biggs prize for contributing to peace and reconciliation. Or because the first of several awards I have won for my journalism cited my "ability to go beyond accepted stereotypes to explain the deeper concerns and fears of both communities in Northern Ireland".

Maybe because an article I wrote about the death of Ian Paisley (reprinted in the Irish Times Book of the Year 2014) considered some of the issues raised by Galway.

The Lundy reflex narrows the ground a community stands on, casts out independent thinkers, stifles debate. "Close one eye and be king," as the poet Derek Mahon wrote.

Incidentally, McCausland's column online was headed "the minister's view", though he was demoted last year. This year, a Stormont committee found that, while a minister, he had "acted inappropriately" for reasons that were "politically motivated".

Instead of digging around in the archives to try to damage the reputations of others, McCausland should attend to his own. He needs to remember St Matthew's injunction to the hypocrite: "First cast out the beam out of thine own eye …".

Belfast Telegraph


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