A liberal orthodoxy that is quick to issue ferocious judgements

Morning View
Morning View

An Alliance Party councillor has linked the Conservative Party and the DUP to fascism.

David Armitage, from east Belfast, posted an image on Facebook with the text “Early warning signs of fascism”, followed by a list of 14 identifying statements.

There was a similar row earlier this year when a member of the Alliance Party’s ruling Executive said that unionists “have been bred to hate Catholics more than corruption”.

David Honeyford apologised after that comment in a Twitter debate.

These comments in themselves are a minor matter, made by individuals with a low public profile.

Lots of people in lots of parties say foolish things, that they might later regret.

That is not the real problem in these controversies, of which there have been many in recent years.

It is the mindset that they betray.

The mindset is one in which certain politicians, if they adhere to general liberal principles on – for example – social issues do not come in for criticism.

But other politicians, if they are perceived to be at odds with that liberal orthodoxy, are beyond the pale.

The Green Party revealed a similar mindset in its proposed anti Brexit pact in which Alasdair McDonnell’s anti abortion views were unacceptable to the Greens in a way that Sinn Fein advocacy of past IRA murder seemingly was not.

But while social conservatives across the spectrum are vulnerable to such ferocious denunciation from a certain type of modern liberalism, unionists are most vulnerable.

Sinn Fein, the party that really has shown fascistic tendencies over the years, is almost never targeted for verbal abuse.

This is a challenge for unionism, that it will have to respond to with patience and persistence in the coming years, pointing out again and again as politely as it can what real intolerance and violent extremism has actually looked like.