Open Letter to Irish Times in response to their article trying to bully the Nolan Show into silencing unionist/loyalist voices
In Saturday’s paper (9 April 2022) an article was published in relation to the Nolan Show, and particularly my contribution to it and that of TUV leader, Mr Jim Allister QC.
It is necessary to correct the multiple errors and misrepresentations. In the first instance two of those quoted prominently- Brian Feeney and Colin Harvey- are self-identified nationalist activists, with Mr Feeney being a former SDLP politician.
Both Mr Feeney and Mr Harvey have publicly self-identified as nationalists in their profession (academic and media respectively) in a series of Ireland’s Future public letters in which nationalist activists identified within their profession by their political affiliation.
Moreover, Mr Harvey was a prominent nationalist campaigner against Brexit, on one occasion at a ‘protest’ (some of these protests included persons dressed up with imitation automatic rifles, or Sinn Fein politicians parading around with sledgehammers) threatening that any border infrastructure “would be removed”. This is relevant context given the self-righteousness seeping from every word of Mr Harvey’s politically motivated contribution.
In the article, the reader is misled into believing Mr Harvey and Mr Feeney are independent and neutral contributors, as they are described as a “Professor” and a “political commentator” respectively. The article omits to alert the reader to the political background of either individual, or that their professional status is part of their political activism (evidenced by their political self-identification in their professions).
This is a serious omission, and readers unfamiliar with Northern Ireland will have been deceived into thinking these contributions come from neutral persons of professional standing, rather than from nationalist activists who plainly have a clear and obvious agenda hostile to unionism, particularly of the variety espoused by myself and Mr Allister.
The article also- as a red herring- seeks to delegitimise my commentary contributions by reference to a local council election result some eleven years ago (when I was twenty years of age and relatively unknown). I should point out for context that in that election a DUP candidate elected received 252 first preference votes, a UUP candidate elected received 282 and another UUP candidate, who was not elected, received 173.
Our small community party- running for the first time- finished across the Borough with 3.2% of the vote, which was almost double the percentage achieved by both the well-established parties, UKIP and Conservatives.
If there is to be an effort to mock and deride me over a small council election over a decade ago when I was barely out of my teens and had no profile, then at least fairly represent the context.
Notwithstanding that, the absence of a mandate is entirely irrelevant in political commentary/activism. I note the article does not raise any concern about the lack of mandate on the part of nationalist activists who regularly (significantly more than I) appear on Nolan and other BBC platforms, such as Chris Donnelly, Amanda Ferguson, Patricia MacBride, Andre Murphy or Phil Kelly.
If there is a disparity, it is that the aforementioned contributors are presented as neutral commentators, whilst any unionist/loyalist is always identified by political background.
In addition, the article quotes an online troll- who many journalists and others have had to block due to obsessive and quite frankly weird trolling- as a “communications expert”.
If this is not bad enough, it further relies on a petition mounted against Nolan. The article fails to disclose that this petition was removed after its author was sued and paid Stephen Nolan over £100,000 plus legal costs and issued a public statement which is worth repeating:
“I fully accept that the offending allegations had been totally unsubstantiated and without foundation. I unreservedly apologise to Mr Nolan for any distress caused.”
Furthermore, the article says the DUP do not appear on Nolan. The DUP’s Gordon Lyons appeared on Nolan on Friday, the day before the story was published. This is basic stuff.
It is trite to point out the article produces no facts or statistics to back up any of the waffle platformed. For example, a cursory analysis of March 2022 shows that the Alliance party appeared on the program significantly more than any other political party.
Whilst the article purports to challenge Nolan, and me and Jim Allister- it fails to critically challenge any of the assertions from the assortment of nationalist activists it platforms.
This campaign is being orchestrated by a political coalition of nationalist activists and its objective is to bully the media into silencing those voices which do not meet with the approval of this nationalist network, many of whom use the status of their professional vocations as a vehicle to advance their political agenda.
The outcome they ultimately desire is that they can control public discourse by virtue of being able to bully any media outlet into silencing voices which are seen as ‘unhelpful’ to their broad political objectives. This has escalated because unionism collectively has taken a harder line, and the thinking of the nationalist network is that if only the unionist/loyalist community could be insulated from hearing those who advocate such a stance, then they would be easier controlled and deceived.
It is, to be frank, a disgrace that the Irish Times- a credible paper of record- would allow itself to be used for this political agenda, and it besmirches journalism generally to publish such an article which is riddled with deceptions and misrepresentations.
I imagine this letter will not be published by the Irish Times or given the prominence of the impugned article, but nevertheless it is necessary to record the relevant matters of concern.