Hoey’s comments come down to “a model of sectarian society,” says author and Derry writer
Derry writer and author Susan McKay criticized Kate Hoey for her return to “a cult model of society” following allegations by the former Labor MP about nationalist activism within the legal profession and the media.
Ms McKay, author of the acclaimed book published last year, “Northern Protestants On Shifting Ground”, said Ms Hoey’s words were comments she allegedly heard when she grew up in Derry in the 1960s.
Hoey, who was sports minister in Tony Blair’s government and now sits in the House of Lords as an independent peer, wrote a forward in a “report” published by a fringe group of loyalists.
She wrote: “I … support the work in progress to encourage those, especially those from working class loyalist communities, to engage in education and seek access to professional vocations such as journalism, law and the public service.
“There are very justified concerns that many professional vocations have become dominated by those of nationalist persuasion, and this positioning of activists is then used to exert influence over those in power. “
Ms Hoey’s comments drew much criticism from across political council, with the exception of DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, who posted on Twitter that he welcomed Hoey’s contribution.
Susan McKay refuted Hoey’s claims as being without merit and that if there is any evidence that Protestants do not do well in education, it is for unionism itself to examine and attack.
She said: “I found it really depressing to watch Kate make comments that I would have heard in my own childhood in the 1960s.
“When I was a kid I would have heard adults in the community I grew up in say things like ‘oh the post is rotten with them’ – meaning the jobs that were traditionally held by Protestants in the positions were now obtained by Catholics.
“The idea that somehow Catholics got a job was something that was disgusting and to be avoided is very overtly sectarian and I think Kate Hoey’s comments, unfortunately, fit that model.
“There’s no evidence whatsoever of any of the things she claims. We have fair equality legislation. There were ways to exclude Catholics by finding out people’s names before you were offered jobs, but there aren’t any more.
“There is also no mechanism to exclude Protestants. People have the same educational opportunities and I think the point is that if there is any evidence of trade unionists underperforming in education, then this is an issue that trade unionism should examine and address.
“Kate Hoey’s comments come back to a bigoted model of society, but I think most people would shy away from it. I think that is not how most people see society anymore.
“Sadly, the worst part of it all is the fact that DUP chief Jeffrey Donaldson stepped in and praised both the report and Kate Hoey’s comments.
“That’s the unfortunate part that someone like Jeffrey could have responsibly said: ‘of course we promote equality in all professions and we believe that all of our young people should have the same educational opportunities.’
“But instead, he supports this sectarian approach that makes Protestants appear to be unsuccessful because of Catholics.
Hoey’s quotes on the legal and media professions raised concerns that the former MP’s comments could inadvertently “paint a target” on people’s backs.
Journalist Martin O’Hagan was killed by paramilitaries loyal to Lurgan in 2001 and in 1989 lawyer Pat Finucane was murdered in his own home by UDA terrorists.
Pat’s son John, now Sinn Féin MP for North Belfast, condemned Hoey’s comments and Susan McKay said Catholics who had climbed the social ladder were often seen as having ideas above their post .
She added: “We know John Finucane’s father, Pat, who was a Catholic lawyer who was assassinated by loyalist paramilitaries.
“There has been a lot of evidence over the years of a pattern of sectarian killings during the unrest of Catholics who had – to use a Northern sectarian expression – ‘outdo themselves’.
“It was a pretty common expression in Northern Ireland when I was young.
“This notion dates back to the founding of the state with Lord Brookeborough’s infamous comment” ninety-nine percent of them are disloyal “when urging employers to choose Protestant boys and girls as he called them. “
McKay also said that trade unionists such as Hoey perhaps should instead examine how unionism has held back the growth of the working class in the Protestant community instead of seeking to blame ambitious working class Catholics who have secured jobs in the Protestant community. white collar workers such as lawyers and journalists.
She continued: “My parents would have been working class Protestants who had been able to avail themselves of the Education Act of 1947. Thus, he raised Protestants as well as Catholics because unionism never did. cared for its working classes.
“The whole Orange system was supposed to be that you knew your place and if you were working class you stayed working class and did what your superiors told you.
“It was a very rigid system and it didn’t encourage people to aspire to improve. In some ways, what we’re seeing now is a game of that.
“There is still a passivity within the Protestant community that does not serve working class youth well. “
Hoey’s comments and Donaldson’s endorsement of them were seen as trade unionism garnering support from his main constituency ahead of this year’s Northern Ireland Assembly elections.
However, McKay believes that if it’s part of their strategy, it could backfire.
She said: “It is a dangerous and irresponsible game to start invoking these old sectarian ghosts.
“The Good Friday deal was supposed to get us away from all of this. It’s just an attempt to take us back to the old days when everything was defined in “them and us” terms.
“It’s so counterproductive for unionism to talk like that right now. It is so obvious that if unionism is to keep the union, it must make it attractive to Catholics and nationalists as well as to unionists.
“But that kind of talk, now endorsed by Jeffrey Donaldson, is much more likely to turn more young unionists away from unionism than anything else. You’re not going to attract nationalists because it’s really insulting to everyone’s intelligence to talk that way.
“People may very well be like, ‘Roll on the unity referendum’ because we can’t go back and this crowd doesn’t seem to want to go forward. I think that’s how it will work. It will just make people think, “if this is how trade unionism is going to talk, then there is no future for this state”.
“It’s like the ‘crocodile’ moment with Arlene Foster where a lot of nationalist people who weren’t particularly politicized were politicized by this remark because they recognized it as really demeaning.”