Saturday, January 02, 2010

(Unexpected) Silence and the perception of what is being said

In Northern Ireland, it's not just what you say, it's also what you don't say ... what others perceive you to be reluctant to say. Today's Belfast Telegraph:

First Minister Peter Robinson is under fire after he failed to issue a statement on the death of Cardinal Cahal Daly.

The much respected 92-year-old former Catholic primate, who died earlier this week, was renowned for his work towards peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and for the hardline attitude he adopted towards the IRA, as well as the hand of friendship he extended to the Protestant community.

But last night the DUP was refusing to make any public statement on behalf of the First Minister following Dr Daly’s death in Belfast City Hospital on New Year’s Eve.

In contrast, a string of Protestant clergymen have been paying tribute to the former Catholic Primate of Ireland who was instrumental in the peace process. They include Presbyterian Moderator Stafford Carson, The Reverend Donald Kerr [actually spelt "Ker"], President of the Methodist Church in Ireland and Church of Ireland Primate Alan Harper.

Public representatives have indicated that as Northern Ireland’s leading politician, representing the whole community, the First Minister should have made a public statement on the death of such a high-profile figure ...

A DUP spokesman, after taking a number of calls from this office, instead issued a statement on behalf of DUP Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster ...

SDLP MLA John Dallat said: “Not only is Peter Robinson out of tune with the Catholic community but he is also out of tune with the vast majority of the Protestant community as well. The fact that the First Minister will not issue a statement is in reality a statement in itself.”

Update - First Minister Peter Robinson has now issued a statement.


AM said...

Is fear of the TUV really so prevalent?

Paul Robinson said...

IMHO, if we want to honour the memory of Cahal Daly, we all would do well to cultivate the virtue of magnanimity. It's easy to talk about peace when it comes to terrorism and the like; it's harder to practice peace when it comes to more mundane matters. But it's the little things that are important, like not drawing attention to the failings of the DUP, even (and especially) when those failings are hurtful.

Alan in Belfast said...

For me, the difficulty is that unless the civil service Office of FM and DFM are incompetent - highly doubtful - then the offer of a pre-prepared statement was refused or ignored or never heard.

It's the death of a very high profile figure who was in post for a long time and meant a lot to a significant proportion of the population.

It was a bad slip up - or a poorly-judged omission.

Paul Robinson said...


Gladys said...

I agree with that -- also interesting that Robinson did not go to the funeral today (citing family reasons, which seems reasonable enough, given the Iris situation).

I've written a longer reflection on Robinson's silence and the importance of symbols and narratives in NI politics at