The Irish Independent reports that the DUP’s Ian McCrea has offered up the latest piece of rabid sectarian nutterism to infect that party.
If you live in Northern Ireland, brace yourself, because, according to the Mid Ulster MLA, more likely than not, you believe that the pope is the anti-Christ. A selling point for Northern Ireland PLC which I’m certain his colleagues in the Department of Trade and Insdustry will be eager to push, as they seek investment around the globe.
Al Murray’s doppelganger elaborates, ‘blah blah blah paedophile priests, blah blah blah if the pope visits I’ll round up a group of fanatical idiots to make fools out of themselves and embarrass their countrymen, blah blah blah I’m sure I’ve still got Roy Gillespie’s number’. I paraphrase.
Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt and it is easy to dismiss McCrea’s comments as more spittle flecked Free P millenarianism, but let’s stop for a moment and consider what a dispassionate observer, looking in from outside, might see and hear.
We have a member of Northern Ireland’s largest party, charged with building a shared future, spewing forth hate, towards a religion which 40% of the population nominally subscribes to, and a considerable proportion cherishes. It is simply appalling! And I don’t care whether McCrea and his like sincerely believe that the Pope conceals two horns in his wee white cap and a tail under his tunic - their beliefs are conceived in ignorance, suspicion and contempt.
I don’t for a moment accept that the majority of practising Protestants in Northern Ireland view the pope as the anti-Christ. I am more or less certain that relatively few unionists share that belief.
A particularly unpleasant form of evangelical Protestantism is represented, disproportionately, within the DUP. It can’t help but influence that party and edge its approach towards sectarian bigotry.
Within the last number of years the DUP has managed to decontaminate itself in the eyes of moderate unionist voters, however intolerance has never been far beneath the surface.