Cartoonist: Ó Muilleoir has given us our ‘basket of deplorables’ moment

The Sinn F�in MLA M�irt�n O'Muilleoir, who talked about "bright people and dark people", at Stormont earlier this year.
 Photograph by Presseye/Cameron  Hamilton

The Sinn F�in MLA M�irt�n O'Muilleoir, who talked about "bright people and dark people", at Stormont earlier this year. Photograph by Presseye/Cameron Hamilton

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Northern Ireland has just had its “basket of deplorables” moment.

If you don’t already know, “deplorable” is the word of the 2016 US elections.

Brian John Spencer, who is a cartoonist, at the May 2016 election count in Belfast. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Brian John Spencer, who is a cartoonist, at the May 2016 election count in Belfast. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

It was the word that showed liberal loathing for the lunch-box economic concerns of middle America.

This word self-torpedoed the Clinton campaign and helped propel Trump into the White House. For some Northern Ireland politics is an issue of bright people and dark people, to use the words of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.

The DUP and its voter base are irredeemably “deplorable”, meanwhile Sinn Fein and its voters are fair and caring.

Because of history, Protestants are often depicted as savage colonists, while Catholics are the courageous colonised. From present policy, Protestants are painted as mean-fisted bigots, while Catholics are benevolent and kind-hearted.

As Ó Muilleoir implied through his blog, many nationalists and republicans prejudge Protestants as dark side of the road people.

I was in America for the US elections and I saw how poisonous “identity politics” can be.

The othering of people allows us to demonise our political opponent as hateful racists.

My mother is a DUP voter, as are other friends and family. They are “bright side of the road people”. They are not bigots or sectarians.

They are liberal, and they are also steadfast unionists and they see the DUP as the best voice for the Union.

They see Sinn Fein as fork-tongued and soiled by a campaign of violence that sought to cripple Northern Ireland economically and socially.

I shared this information on social media, and by the responses I received I realised that many republicans really do think that every DUP voter is a Catholic/gay/Irish hating racist.

This makes the anti-sectarian every bit as sectarian and prejudiced as the very sectarian they purport to oppose.

In the strongest possible terms I wish to repudiate the “bright side of the road” rhetoric of Ó Muilleoir, and in the same terms I wish to reject the narrow-mindedness of every republican who paints a unionist as a dark and deplorable person.

I know too many unionists and DUP voters to know this is a foolish and bigoted simplicity.

I implore republicans to get to know their political neighbour.

Otherwise, what difference is there between calling Protestants “dark” and Dr Paisley saying Catholics breed like rabbits?

Prejudice is prejudice.

Brian John Spencer, Belfast