The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

McAleese Should be Criticised


David Adams • Irish Times, 16 February 2006

President Mary MacAleese, it appears, is virtually beyond criticism.

So proud are Northern nationalists of having one of their own in Áras an Uachtaráin that few if any of them would ever dream of publicly criticising her. Even if they did, they know that such is their community's regard for "our Mary" a rebuke from within would be adjudged as bordering on sacrilege.

For their part, unionists have long since given up on passing comment. So often have their complaints been dismissed as being motivated by sectarianism - in fairness, a charge that on occasion has had foundation - that they no longer feel it worthwhile making the effort.

Many Southerners, I suspect, are a lot more indulgent than would be the case if their President hailed from the Republic. Conscious of Northern hypersensitivity and wary of being accused of anti-Northern bias, for the most part they choose to keep their comments to themselves.

The upshot is, apart from a few brave souls in the Southern print media who occasionally take her to task, the President enjoys the happy circumstance of being either lauded or ignored - but almost never criticised. In short, she has virtual free rein to say whatever she likes.

The sheer inappropriateness of her remarks in 2005 at the ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, where she managed to insult both Jews and Northern Protestants, should have alerted everyone to the problems inherent in this situation. Left to her own devices, the President flagrantly abused the suffering of others to make an erroneous point and displayed, as well, a serious lack of judgment and a tendency towards hyperbole.

Not deterred by unionist outrage at her likening them to Nazis, nor, it would appear, subjected to any censure from the Government, the President has continued periodically in a similar vein.

She often uses international platforms - hijacking at will the genuine plight of others - to draw attention to what she perceives to be past ills visited upon the Irish people in general and Northern Catholics in particular by both the British and unionists.

Last week's presidential visit to Scotland was a case in point. Speaking at St Catharine's homeless project in Edinburgh, she told an audience: "I have my own brief personal experience of homelessness, of losing a family home and of feeling that awful insecurity that comes from such awful turbulence in a life." As a well-briefed media was aware, she was referring to a sectarian gun attack on her family's Belfast home in the 1970s, which caused them to move to Rostrevor in Co Down.

Now the pPresident cannot possibly believe there is any equivalence between her own experience and that of the type of people catered for by a homeless project.

She is bound to realise that the plight of a prosperous, middle-class family having to flee their home at the height of a civil conflict is light years removed from the daily trials and tribulations of those who live on the streets and rely on charitable organisations for shelter.

It seems more likely that Mrs MacAleese saw her visit to St Catharine's as another opportunity to wallow in retrospective victimhood and, via the aforementioned media briefings, draw attention once again to the oppression of Catholics in Northern Ireland.

If only to put things in their proper context, she might have pointed out that - traumatic and frightening as their experience undoubtedly was - her family was only one of thousands on both sides of the religious divide who were forced to flee from their homes during the Troubles.

This has not been her only noticeable omission.

As someone who has made public comment on everything from Sinn Féin's acceptance of policing to the GAA's opening up of Croke Park to other disciplines, it was strange the President had nothing to say publicly about last year's attack on the Love Ulster parade in Dublin.

It need hardly be said that the British did not escape mention during her visit to Scotland.

Yet again, there was talk of the discrimination faced by successive generations of Irish people who travelled to live and work in Britain.

As always, the President's citing of past wrongs by the British was accompanied by an appreciation of the friendly relationships that now exist between the two islands.

However, this perpetual drawing of attention to the marked contrast between past and present has the effect of lending a distinct air of qui s'excuse s'accuse to any address.

Whenever there is a suspicion that unionists might feel insulted by something the President has said, we are conveniently reminded of how she has reached out to the unionist community.

But if she were to reach out to the thousands of victims of IRA violence and start highlighting their suffering to international audiences, it would do more for healing relationships than any amount of cosy chats and cups of tea with select groups in Áras an Uachtaráin.


Reprinted with permission from the author.








Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

22 February 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Litter & Glass
Anthony McIntyre

Not Worth the Paper Its Written On
John Kennedy

Ballot Box Pressure
Mick Hall

Commission of Truth Needed, Says O Hara
Peggy O Hara

RSF Election News
Press Release

Help Sinn Feign
Brian Mór

British Policing Must Never Be Acceptable in Ireland
Francis Mackey

The Next Step
Dr John Coulter

Conclusions from the Ard Fheis
Brian Halpin

McAleese Should be Criticised
David Adams

The Best Woman to Succeed
Dr John Coulter

Fred A. Wilcox

The Critical History of (Irish pop) Noise
Seaghán Ó Murchú

No Clean Hands
Anthony McIntyre

13 February 2007

Compromise, Compromise, Compromise
Helen McClafferty

Martin Galvin

The Heart of Collusion
John Kennedy

Bad Tactics
Anthony McIntyre

The Clothes Make the Man
Mick Hall

Follow the Leader
John Kennedy

Dry Your Eyes
John Kennedy

The Foreman
Anthony McIntyre

Mc Cain and Northern Ireland
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Rumours of Retirement
Dr John Coulter

Liam O Ruairc

If MI5 rules, What was the 30-year war all about?
John Kelly

PRUC Service
Brian Mór

Nationalists Divided Over Sinn Fein Support for British Policing
Paul Mallon

Remember the B Specials?
Dr John Coulter

The Boyne Harriers
Brian Mór

Coming Full Circle
Seaghán Ó Murchú

The Need for an Anti-Imperialist United Front
Philip Ferguson



The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices