Belfast Telegraph

Why we shouldn't jump to chastise Secretary of State for admitting a lack of knowledge on tribal differences in NI

Editor's Viewpoint

Many people may be surprised by the admission from Secretary of State Karen Bradley who said she didn't understand that nationalists don't vote for unionist parties and vice-versa.

She has rightly attracted criticism for her tardiness in cutting the salaries of our MLAs and for her procrastination about Stormont - but the rush to condemn her for this latest admission is ill-judged.

Some of her critics know little about the political nuances here. Sadly, voting for the major blocks of Orange and Green seems unchanging, but this is not always the case.

Tactical voting has helped various parties such as the SDLP when Joe Hendron defeated Gerry Adams in West Belfast, and also Eddie McGrady and Margaret Ritchie in South Down.

Some people have refused to be pigeon-holed, including the late Sir John Gorman - a Catholic member of the UUP and a former MLA.

It would be wonderful to see more people like him today, who feel that being born into one community does not stop them from appreciating "the other side".

The late Maurice Hayes appreciated the best of both main communities and was not afraid to cross the barriers of stereotypes.

It is typical of our provincial self-absorption that we think everyone here should be hard-wired into our local difficulties and prejudices.

We think they should already know all about our acronyms, bland masks for terrorism and other outrages.

For centuries the Irish question has perplexed some of the best minds on these islands.

So it is unrealistic to expect that Karen Bradley would become an instant expert on our tribal differences.

At least she was being honest.

So why should we be so critical of our comparatively new Secretary of State and so intent on making an example of her?

If we get to the point where our politicians are receiving brickbats for their honesty, then we are in an even worse place than we feared.

Belfast Telegraph

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