Why the First Minister should NOT apologise

There has been a chorus of demands for the First Minister to apologise publicly for his comments defending a Pastor’s anti-Islam remarks. Yet I don’t think he should apologise.

Why? Simple – he’s not sorry!

This was yet another example of the DUP jumping to the defence of some crazed bigot simply because he was “one of us” (from a Unionist/Loyalist/Protestant perspective). Muslims, of course, do not qualify as “one of us”, and are therefore in the eyes of the DUP and its supporters to be subjected to less than equal treatment. After all (so goes the DUP’s groupthink), this is a Christian (indeed Protestant) country so why would Christians (Protestants) not be given preferential treatment even when they’re crazed lunatics?

I repeated on UTV’s The Issue programme last week that the First Minister’s comments were not an accident. No one asked him to intervene. No one put pressure on him to respond. He chose to give an interview on the subject, he chose to defend a bigoted lunatic, and he chose to dismiss Muslims as capable of trust only when “going to the shops” and other such servile activities. This was pre-meditated. An apology would be utterly hollow, as it would indicate he did not mean it – when actually he did.

I was delighted to be among 4,000 people at City Hall on Saturday – it was uplifting to feel there are so many people in our great city who are willing to stand up and be counted against racists and xenophobes. However, we cannot forget that 130,000 people voted DUP first preference a week previously – and I doubt many of them are feeling guilty about it now. Social media has been full of people condemning racism, but also full of people simply denying that attacks are racist. This is a social challenge, not a political one.

By the way, we needn’t think this isn’t double-edged. Look at the standard way Sinn Fein dismiss opponents as “anti-Republican” or “anti-peace agenda” without actually addressing their arguments. On Twitter at the weekend I was even “barred” from expressing an opinion about Celtic Football Club because I’m not a supporter (i.e. not “one of us”)! This is all about labelling people and then dismissing them if they have the wrong label, rather than entering into open and rational debate.

What is needed is not an apology, but a fundamental change of attitude from tens of thousands of people.


7 thoughts on “Why the First Minister should NOT apologise

  1. Kilsally says:

    I don’t think many have said the attacks are not racist Ian – what they have been saying is that Islam is a religion not a race & in a free society any & all religions & political opinions are fair game for disagreement, debate, disparaging, ridicule. Racist attacks on the other hand are a crime and the recent spate ate indeed worrying. I do however think it is wrong to mix up standard Evangelical Protestant preaching (thousands of such sermons online from around the world) and hate crimes/racist attacks. The motive of such Evangelical sermons is out of concern for the salvation of souls whereas racist attacks are motivated by hate.

    • Oh plenty of people on social media denied the attack on the Pakistani family was racist. Pure denial.

      We also of course had UKIP’s denial that Anna Lo had ever been racially attacked.

      It would have been reasonable (at least, were the First Minister not a member of a party which recently sought to ban a play on religious grounds) to say that Free Speech dictates the Pastor can say what he likes provided it does not promote hate against a given group. However, to say he was basically right…

  2. Toby P Baxter says:

    Would it not be time for alliance to take lead of the progressive movement and leave the executive so they needn’t share power with such bigoted fools?

    • Alliance leaving the Executive would bring the whole thing crashing (as they would not be able to find a Justice Minister capable of cross-community consent).

      That may be appealing to some in more cynical moments, but there is no chance of Alliance being thanked for it.

      That said, I do wonder in my own cynical moments what would happen if the Justice Minister said “Peter, if you can’t retract your recent remarks about Muslims, then it’s you or me – you decide…”

      • Toby P Baxter says:

        If the alliance are propping up sectarian and bigoted parties then it does seem a little counterintuitive …

  3. William Allen says:

    I agree fully with you Ian. Any apology would be insincere. Perhaps it is time for Alliance to bring down this government of bigots and the apologists for terror.

  4. Michael says:

    The feeling of superiority among unionists goes beyond racism Ian, they have the same attitude to gays.
    Poots attitude to blood donation is only one example.
    But people keep voting for these bigots and until that changes they have very little reason to think or act differently.
    Sad little society we have here.

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