Paisley, McKeague and Seawright among famed users of emotive words.
POLITCIANS playing to their constituency with colourful and emotive rhetoric is uusually regarded as an asset. Renowned orators like Michael Collins and Winston Churchill delivered words in a manner that instilled awe and great loyalty among their audience.
Throughout the Troubles – and even before 1969 – the North of Ireland‘s politicians have enjoyed employing aggressive and provocative language when speaking in public. One of the most notorious incidents occoured almost 50 years ago when big Ian Paisley demanded the removal of the Irish tricolour from Division Street in West Belfast. He warned of riots if the RUC did not heed his call, but the violence the relatively young Free Presbyterian preacher predicted was avoided after a police operation to remove the flag. Over subsequent decades the former DUP leader’s language sailed close to the wind on many occasions but never were his words deemed so offensive that they resulted in arrest. However, his East Belfast loyalist associate John McKeague did face prosecution for a hate crime over the written word rather than an inflammatory speech.
The 1971 publication of Loyalist song book and its inclusion of anti-Catholic lyrics saw McKeague brought to court but ultimately acquitted after the proesecution failed to convince the jury of his intent. McKeague was shot dead a decade later by the INLA. In perhaps the best known episode of inciting sectarian hatred Belfast DUP councillor George Seawright was pprosecuted in 1984 when he made provocative remarked during a meeting of Belfast Education and Library Board. The loyalist, who like McKeague was later gunned down by the INLA offshoot, described Catholics who objected to the singing of the British national anthem “fenian scum” and suggested they should be burnt in an incinerator. Although he denied making the comments, Mr Seawright was prosecuted and received a six-month suspended sentence. The era of social media means the opportunities for people to go beyond what is deemed acceptable is much greater. The court restrictions around using Facebook and Twitter placed on loyalist flag protesters Jamie Bryson and Willie Frazer reflect a recognition of the potential by political and community leaders to incite their followers through.
With many thanks to : John Manley, The Irish News.
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