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Our intolerant society is not one to be proud of

As the world rallies again to the cause of free speech, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, where does this leave Northern Ireland and its current equality culture?

For years, the premise in NI has been; say nothing, do nothing, wear nothing that your neighbour might decide is offensive. Even worse, as the culture has become embedded, we have all been told, your intent is irrelevant; in fact, your actions are irrelevant. Offence is in the perception of the observer, and self-declared perceived offence is enough.

In a complete reversal of all that “Je suis Charlie” stands for, in NI we have the right “not to be offended”. In fact, we have an industry built on the right “not to be offended”. 

So wearing a football top is deemed sectarian, holding a political opinion is a matter that cannot be discussed, public displays either of allegiance or opposition must neatly fall into the realms of acceptability, and obviously public processions must only be contemplated where everyone is in agreement.

Surely our culture of “equality” is everything the fundamentalists want; we have caved in to the most illiberal, tyrannical prejudices of intolerance. There is no logic in the liberal elite or our politicians queuing up to be photographed with “Je suis Charlie” labels when intolerance is the bedrock of their equality mantra. If “Je suis Charlie” means anything, then freedom of expression, assembly and movement must become the central plank of all our rights!

No one has the right to be deliberately offensive, but no one has the right “not to be offended”.


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