There is a lot of political news at the moment and I am trying to catch my breath – the resignation of Alan Johnson, Shadow Chancellor and the announcement of a General Election in the Republic of Ireland. As I write, Tony Blair is giving evidence to the Iraq enquiry. Posts on those subjects will follow shortly.
Meanwhile, yesterday, TV coverage was also given to Baroness Warsi, the co-Chairman of the Conservative Party after she highlighted the problem of Islamaphobia in Britain. It is very important Conservatives across the country show their solidarity with Baroness Warsi. The message will be all the more powerful if senior conservatives, who are non-muslims, express their public support.
Bigotry in Britain is not discussed as much as it is in Northern Ireland. Nonetheless, Baroness Warsi’s public comments are to be welcomed by anybody in Northern Ireland who is interested in tackling bigotry against groups of people, whether it is sectarianism, homophobia or any other act of prejudice which is demeaning, divisive or stigmatising.
Northern Ireland’s problems are compounded by the institutionalization of some forms of bigotry. If the leader of an institution, religion or any other body fails to take moral responsibility for the problem of bigotry, then it is so much the harder for individuals, who are members of that institution, religion or other body to tackle it themselves.
I come across bigotry by individuals on a regular basis. Recently, I heard somebody say, ““X” is a Prod but his shop does some very good bargains.” This is not acceptable. This is not some phenomenon which we can just brush aside as being a harmless conversation within a community. At the extreme end of the continuum, somebody will be sufficiently influenced by it to commit a hate crime. Anybody who notices it in their own community has a moral duty to clamp down upon it and set an example.
In my various posts, I have highlighted the fact that institutions or bodies have not done enough to tackle bigotry. This includes not just the Orange Order but also the GAA and the Churches. What Northern Ireland needs, particularly, is for leaders of those institutions to be courageous and challenge bigotry within their own community.