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  • Writer's pictureFriends of Sinn Féin USA

Unionism - Blowing A Sectarian Dog Whistle

Andree Murphy is the deputy director of Relatives for Justice, a board member of Ireland’s Future, and well respected political commentator.

In this article first printed in the Andersonstown News she addresses the recent remarks by unionist leaders to delegitimize those who believe in Irish Unity.

ANDRÉE MURPHY: People are being targeted for delegitimization

THE New Year has been marked by a significant ramping up of the rhetoric against the Catholic, nationalist and republican community.

There are online sites of incitement, with accompanying Twitter personae, that most of us ignore for the sewers that they are. However, last week a piece from one of those sites contained a foreword written by Kate Hoey and was endorsed by unionism.

The piece criticises “anti-Union activism” within the theatres of law, academia, and the media where “There are very justified concerns that many professional vocations have become dominated by those of a nationalist persuasion, and this positioning of activists is then used to exert influence on those in power.”

Of course, the piece is scaremongering, aimed at the lowest common denominator who thrive on fear and hate. And as the political environment in our six counties changes and we move ever closer to a change in the constitutional arrangements of this island, there will be nasty and concentrated attacks from those who refuse to engage with reality and try to keep us all in the past. However, that does not mean we can be silent when a Rubicon is crossed.

Had this vitriol stayed on the website it was written for, that would be one thing. That it has infected unionist discourse and been endorsed by the News Letter and Jeffrey Donaldson is quite another.

And that it has paved the way for vitriolic rhetoric from others, at once seeking to legitimise hate and delegitimise the work and input of human rights defenders, academics, journalists and others, is intolerable. What followed the publication and its endorsement has been the identification of individuals, who are prominent in their professions and also hold a public position on the constitutional question, as being said “activists”, and held up as evidence of and justification for this trope. That is not only tawdry but also dangerous.

We live in a place where terms like “pan-nationalist front/elite/cadre” or “returning the serve” were part of mission statements of loyalism that led to killings. To hear these terms now being used within unionism and more often than not without challenge is not only sickening but also very worrying.

When participation in public life is delegitimised by virtue of being nationalist, Catholic, republican or aspiring to a united Ireland, then we are back to pre-Good Friday Agreement fundamentals. Have Catholics, nationalists and republicans – Irish citizens – an equal place in this society or not? Does playing an equal part in society mean that any of us can be considered “legitimate” targets for demonisation or delegitimisation?

There are valued members in our community, working for the good of every citizen living here, who had such targets put on their back this week. There has not been nearly enough condemnation, or defence of those being explicitly targeted. The Irish Government and the entire Executive must defend these Irish citizens. It is time to call this out before someone is harmed.

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