Saturday, October 30, 2010

Terrors of the tongue

Iain Dale wrote a long post yesterday morning criticising the decision to allow a Sinn Féin member of the UK Youth Parliament to speak in the House of Commons chamber. All the way through reading it, I assumed that Iain must be one of those Tory diehards who take the (misguided, but perfectly legitimate) view that the compromises made with Republicans during the peace process went too far. And yet he actually draws his remarks to a close by declaring - "I applaud the peace process. It is remarkable what has been achieved on both sides of the political divide."

So it's a mystery. Here are a few points on which I don't think Iain's logic stands up to much scrutiny at all -

1) He says that Sinn Féin MPs should not be allowed to speak in the chamber unless they are prepared to take the oath. But this young man is not a Sinn Féin MP (duh). Moreover, the session was self-evidently not an official meeting of parliament, and thus presumably none of the participants were required to swear allegiance to the Queen as a condition of taking part.

2) He refers to how sickening it is that someone who "clearly" sympathises with those who murdered Tory MP Ian Gow twenty years ago was allowed to speak from the benches where Gow sat. Now, there is no doubting the enormous hurt that has been caused by welcoming unrepentant killers into the political fold - but for someone who believes in the Belfast Agreement, as Iain claims to, why does it appear to be so much worse if it happens in London, rather than in Northern Ireland itself? Sinn Féin's participation in both the Assembly and the Executive was an integral part of the settlement, and the families of victims have long since had to try to reconcile themselves to the likes of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly holding executive power in their part of the world. The issue of whether a member of what is effectively a 'mock' parliament should be allowed to open his mouth seems absurdly trivial by comparison.

It's also worth pointing out that even at the height of the Troubles, there was actually nothing to stop Sinn Féin MPs speaking from the Commons benches if they so chose. Even if they had refused to take the oath, they could have participated in the first session of each parliament when the Speaker is elected - that takes place before the oath is administered to anyone.

3) Where Iain really seems to lose the plot is over the fact that the Sinn Féin representative planned to speak in Irish. Why should this even be an issue at all? If it's because of the rule that proceedings in the Commons should be in English, well, once again, these were not Commons proceedings. So once we eliminate that as the reason, what is there left? Perhaps Iain finds the Irish language itself offensive for some reason? Does he imagine it's some kind of 'terrorist tongue'?


  1. Like most others, you seem to ignore the fact that I didn't actually say he should be banned from speaking. But hey, why worry about what I actually said, when you can write about what you imagine I said!

  2. Iain, that's a total cop-out. If you honestly feel you've been misrepresented, I'd suggest you might want to clarify - however briefly - what you actually did mean. The fact that you've chosen not to do that, and instead to have a generalised moan about your ghastly detractors, means I suspect that you're very deliberately trying to have your cake and eat it - this is "shocking", "wrong", "incredible", etc., but no, you're not necessarily saying it shouldn't have happened, because that would make it look like you were rejecting the peace process.

    It reminds me of that wonderful retort of Mo Mowlam to her Tory opposite number - "I'm delighted he supports the Good Friday Agreement. I now look forward to that support extending to the contents of the Agreement!"

  3. Ezio - Protecting Florence from Tory CutsOctober 30, 2010 at 7:48 PM

    James, my auld mucker, I'd love it if you frisked every single one of Iain Dale's absurd posts.

    How such a foolish individual came to be accepted as a media commentator based on those same posts I have no idea.

  4. I don’t understand why the Commons wouldn’t be used for the Youth Parliament. It’s a public hall belonging to the nation. It would be good experience for youngsters aspiring to be politicians.

    The fact that someone from a republican party would be allowed to speak there should not surprise given that there are ministers of the crown from this duly recognised UK party.

    I think it may be a bit of a leap to assume that this young man agrees with Mr McGuiness, (Deputy First Minister) or Mr Adams in all things. The Tory party, for example, has many members who do not agree with Mr Cameron; it’s likely that Sínn Fein will have the same.

    As you point out James, only MPs are obliged to swear allegiance to the Queen. It is not surprising that republicans would be unwilling to swear such an oath. I actually respect the fact that they won’t. Tony Benn, Denis Skinner and their compatriots swore the oath with their fingers crossed behind their backs, which was supposed to render it null and void. I would question how many of the Tories, who are supposed to be great monarchists would actually lay down their life for the Queen or Charlie, if push came to shove? Damned sure that I wouldn’t, no matter what I had to say to get my name on the pay roll. Perhaps Sínn Fein is just a wee bit more honest.

    In passing I venture to suggest that it is high time that MPs swore to work for their constituents and not to steal their money instead of swearing to a monarch.

    I have to say that I, too, frequently wish Gideon would get off the telly. I maybe wouldn’t put it on my facebook page in such terms, but then I’m a little older. I have, however, got a petition on my blog asking him to pay his UK taxes. That would be so nice of him as we are "all in this together".

    I’m not sure why anyone shouldn’t be able to use their native UK tongue in the Commons. Most countries have simultaneous translation going on, but of course the UK lags behind after about 1850.

    But I begin to understand Iain Dale’s mindset when I read (without a hint of misty eyes) of the “hallowed benches of the mother of parliaments”... Erm, what? I think he might mean the mother of all laughing stocks, given the antics of the bunch of thieves that recently populated benches. They are anything but hallowed; soiled more like.

    I get a further notion of what drives this (apparently) unemotional, sensational post, when I read “That a supporter of a cause which took the lives of Lord Mountbatten, Airey Neave, Ian Gow and so many more besides, should today be sitting beneath the plaque to Airey Neave in the chamber of the House of Commons, leaves me cold.” It would be rude of me to make more of that, but thousands of soldier and civilains on both sides died, and the names chosen were not the best of them by a long way.

    As for the petty carping about the fact that a kid has something rather crude and childish about Thatcher on his Facebook, come on Iain Dale. He’s a young lad. He hasn’t learned yet that even if you feel those things, which many many tens of thousands, possibly millions, of people in the UK do, you don’t write them down. It’s a bit tasteless, but show me the kid that isn’t. I guess when Gideon was wrecking restaurants in his student days, there were those who thought that was a little OTT...even if he was rich.

    Still, that’s old Tories for you. Any kind of progress is anathema to them.

  5. some interesting articles here

    "The News Letter is hosting a debate on the future of the Union in 2021, the 100th anniversary of the creation of Northern Ireland"

  6. Well said, Tris, I entirely agree. As for the Facebook thing, I occasionally get sent invites to join "let's celebrate Thatcher's demise" type groups - of course I never do, but where does this puritan logic end? Am I a despicable person if I don't instantly de-friend (or whatever the expression is) everyone who is a member of a slightly tasteless group?

    Anon - thanks for the link. I wonder if Northern Ireland will celebrate the 100th anniversary of their union in the same way we celebrated the 300th anniversary of ours - by electing a nationalist First Minister!