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Nelson McCausland had chance to compare demagogues



Belfast Telegraph letters to the Editor

Belfast Telegraph letters to the Editor

Belfast Telegraph letters to the Editor

Nelson McCausland's column (Comment, August 24) highlighted John Mitchel's overt racism and support for the abominable practice of slavery. Mitchel was also an extreme Irish republican.

Using mostly the written word as his weapon, he inevitably gyrated towards the most extreme versions of whatever causes he espoused at any particular time and did so in the most vitriolic and vituperative language imaginable. His 'career' was a sequence of fall-outs, because he was too extreme even for the leadership of the organisations for whom he successively worked. Thus, he moved on to the next extreme 'cause'. He was born in Camnish, near Dungiven, on November 3, 1815, son of a Presbyterian minister, who later was called to minister in Newry, Co Down - thus the Mitchel connection. He is buried with his father in Newry Presbyterian cemetery.

He was also prepared to play the anti-Catholic card for his own purposes. In a letter to 'The Protestant Farmers, Labourers and Artisans of the north of Ireland', he wrote: "The Pope, we know, is the Man of Sin and the Anti-Christ and also, if you like, the Mystery of Iniquity, and all that; but he brings no ejectments in Ireland. The Seven Sacraments are to be sure, very dangerous, but the quarter-acre clause catches you more nearly." (I presume the GAA clubs identified by Mr McCausland were aware of his anti-Catholic sentiments before adopting his name.)

If a demagogue can be identified by his use of tactics such as fearmongering, threatening physical violence/intimidation, gross oversimplification, vulgarity and/or outrageous behaviour, promising the impossible and/or the use of emotional oratory and personal charisma, then Mitchel was a demagogue.

There was also a much later political/religious demagogue, who set up his own political party (extreme, but certainly not republican), his own newspaper, his own Orange Order, churches and schools. The offer, or promise, of high political office was the only thing which appeared to moderate his demagoguery. I was hoping Nelson's column was going to compare the two demagogues, giving much-needed balance to at least one of his articles. However, I was to be disappointed.

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