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Caroline Farrow: Unpopular lefty Newsnight seeks to stitch up the popular righty DUP


I’m no expert in the complexities of Northern Ireland politics and neither, it would seem, is Stacey Dooley. However, that did not stop her from attempting to report on the Province in a segment on BBC 2’s Newsnight on Monday night.

Rather than acknowledging that the majority of voters in Northern Ireland (including some Catholics) voted for the DUP, Dooley decided to approach them with the wide-eyed naivety of a poor man’s Louis Theroux. Setting aside that the DUP garnered 28.1 per cent of the overall vote, with over a quarter of a million people putting them down as their party of first choice, Stacey’s tactics were to behave as though they were some kind of extreme lunatic fringe, a charming Irish version of the Westboro Baptist Church, who would secretly like to picket funerals with “God hates fags” petitions.

Clearly what Stacey was hoping to find were some deeply unpleasant views, which would display the DUP in the worst possible light and, of course, she managed to unearth some party activists who still hold on to their old sectarian loyalty, being deeply distrustful of Sinn Fein (and who can blame them). But were Stacey to have dug a bit deeper than a brief 30-second interview with some friendly Fenian voters, she would have found a similar sentiment and distrust of Nationalists amongst their voters too. The Troubles may be over, but they’ve left some deep and lasting scars, which will take a few generations to heal.

I might not be on board with the burning of Sinn Fein election posters at the Eleventh Night loyalist bonfires, depicted in the slot, but Stacey’s faux-incredulity and outrage was as amusing as it was irritating. The comparisons between Sinn Fein and the flag of ISIS was admittedly unhelpful rhetoric (all deliberately shown to cast the DUP in as terrible a light as possible) but just as ridiculous was Stacey’s assertion that you’d never get away with that in England. Someone needs to take the poor lass to the annual Lewes bonfires, where the burning of political figureheads, along with overt displays of anti-Catholicism is de rigueur!

What Dooley’s segment did reveal, however, is the liberal media’s obsession about having the ‘right’ kind of permissive sexual values, and their sheer incomprehension that anyone could dissent from them. All credit to the 19-year-old DUP voter Ruth, who bravely attempted to explain her opposition to same-sex marriage and was treated as though she was some kind of untouchable from a lower caste. All credit to the girl, while her explanation was perhaps slightly lacking in theological terms, she bravely stuck to her ground and came across as a thoughtful, intelligent, attractive and most important of all,  a nice and normal human being, defying the nasty caricature into which the BBC was dying to cast her.

Not content that Ruth hadn’t yet shown herself up, Dooley then decided to hit below the belt, asking Ruth ‘tell me what is wrong when a man kisses another man or has sex with another man’, despite the fact that this had not even featured in Ruth’s argument. Either Stacey was attempting to goad or provoke poor Ruth into exhibiting some kind of disgust in order to get the bigot money shot, or she genuinely couldn’t get her poor little brain around the fact that somebody might have genuine religious objections to same-sex marriage and automatically assumed that it had to be about some kind of irrational fear of gay kissing or sex acts.

It reminded me of the words of one of the more acerbic nuns at my school, who wryly observed that those who talk about sex all the time, tend to be lacking it in their own lives! One does have to wonder how much of this line of questioning is projection, as the only people I’ve ever heard obsess about the morality of homosexual acts, are journalists like Stacey and Cathy Newman. I didn’t hear a single Christian mention it during the gay marriage debate. We tend to take these things as read.

You couldn’t have blamed Ruth had she flinched, having been invited to think about a sexual act that she finds distasteful and would have no interest in participating in, and according to this research, had she done so, it would have been a perfectly normal reaction not indicative of homophobia. Having done her best to make Ruth desperately uncomfortable, Stacey turned her sights on Ruth’s mum Jackie, almost pleading with her to help her daughter to see sense, because surely it must be difficult for a young person to have views which were seen as “extreme, radical or controversial” and implying that Ruth was somehow bringing opprobrium on herself by “digging her heels in”.

It would seem that it’s positively laudable for young liberal feminists resolutely to stick to their values, but when a socially conservative woman does it, she deserves everything she gets. Not wanting to even raise the issue of abortion or same-sex marriage beyond an asinine question about sex, Stacey Dooley came to the specious conclusion that because they hadn’t talked about them, these issues weren’t really at stake or important for DUP voters, for whom it was all about sectarianism.

A far more interesting documentary would have been to examine the reasons why Northern Ireland remains so socially conservative and whether there is real political appetite for abortion or same-sex marriage reform. Perhaps she could have interviewed Northern Irish Catholics, or other former ‘Shinners’, who have changed their political allegiance towards the DUP, as a result of Sinn Fein’s stance on abortion and gay marriage.

In the end Jackie, Ruth’s mum, nailed it: ‘being a conservative with a small c, doesn’t mean that there’s automatically a hatred towards people you don’t agree with, whereas I feel that’s coming the other way at the moment.” “Really, you think people actually hate you”, said Stacey, unsuccessfully managing to bury her distaste and pity. “Well I think that’s the reason that you’re here”! Indeed Jackie, indeed. And well done for raising your beautiful daughter to be such a sensible and principled and Godly young woman!

(Image: Richter Frank-Jurgen)

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Caroline Farrow
Caroline Farrow
Columnist for the Catholic Universe

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