Republican News · Thursday 01 June 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Trimble's offensive logic

For every painful and reluctant step forward he takes politically, David Trimble seems to take another backwards leap in the personality stakes. At Saturday's post-UUC vote press conference he revealed some deeply unpleasant sectarian instincts, telling reporters that Sinn Féin needed to be ``brought to heel'' and ``house-trained in democracy''.

This outrageous and offensive rubbish was attributed by much of the British media to the stress of the occasion and to the need for Trimble to placate his hardliners after the narrow vote in favour of returning to devolved government. Whilst it is questionable that people who subscribe to such views should be indulged in this manner, the phrase ``house-trained'' is clearly one which held great appeal for Trimble some time before the vote, since he was also quoted as using precisely the same term in Saturday's Guardian.

In the Waterfront Hall, only one reporter questioned his comments, asking whether it was fitting language for an inclusive society to compare Sinn Féin to dogs. ``That's the sort of language I would have used'' snapped back Trimble; ``That was your language, not mine.'' Not one person in the room challenged him to define more clearly exactly what he did mean by the expression if not that. Instead, one reporter merely smirked and asked ``How do you propose to house train Martin McGuinness?''. Trimble declined to answer the question, preferring instead to smirk back at this little shared sectarian jibe.

Sinn Féin's Bairbre de Brún said Trimble's comments were ``totally and utterly sectarian.

``It's the kind of sectarianism which led to the second-class citizenship that Catholics and nationalists have known throughout the history of the state. It led to much of the conflict and it needs to be left behind,''.

Martin McGuinness said on GMTV on Sunday morning that he had been inundated by calls from nationalists who were furious at Trimble's comments. He said that ``political process can only be advanced on the basis of inclusivity, equality and mutual respect. Trimble's sectarian comments about Sinn Féin members suggest he may have some difficulty in embracing these concepts.''

Although it has been said many times before, it clearly still needs to be said again that it ill-behoves an Ulster Unionist to lecture others on democracy. Not only did the party conspicuously deny democracy to nationalists for 80 years, it also still engages in the nasty habit of redefining the whole notion of democracy in ever desperate attempts to retain its own rapidly diminishing supremacy. It veers between crude majoritarianism and a DUP-style Majority-of-the-Unionist-People version of democracy as and when the situation suits. According to Trimble, the 50 Percent Plus One rule must be enforced with a rod of iron as long as the One is a unionist.

As soon as the One looks like being a nationalist, the rules suddenly become much more flexible.

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