Northern Ireland news

Kate Hoey urged to withdraw comments about nationalist professionals after widespread criticism

Former Labour MP Kate Hoey. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

FORMER Labour MP Kate Hoey has been urged to withdraw comments in which she claimed many of the north's professions are "dominated by those of a nationalist persuasion".

The cross-party peer, who made the remarks in a document released by blogger Jamie Bryson's Unionist Voice Publications, said nationalist "activists" in the fields of law, journalism and public service were using their roles to "exert influence on those in power".

Her remarks have been widely criticised, with the National Union of Journalists accusing the Co Antrim-born politician of "gross stereotyping".

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill called on DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to condemn the comments, while Queen's University academic Colin Harvey, thought to be one of those referred to, said such "labelling" has "real world consequences".

Writing in the 'Vetoing the Protocol: restoring cross-community consent protections' document, the former Vauxhall MP said she supported the "increasingly strategic activism" of some within the unionist community, who were "coming together in various ways to develop networks and sharing of ideas".

“I also entirely support the ongoing work to encourage those, especially from working class loyalist communities, to engage in education and to seek entry to professional vocations such as journalism, law, and public service," she said.

“There are very justified concerns that many professional vocations have become dominated by those of a nationalist persuasion, and this positioning of activists is then used to exert influence on those in power."

The remarks sparked a storm on social media, with the Sinn Féin deputy leader describing them as "utterly outrageous".

“Inflammatory remarks like these serve only to deepen division and have been rightly condemned by the main political leaders – DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson should do the same," Ms O'Neill said.

“The policies of discrimination in employment, housing, and every other facet of life imposed on nationalists by the old Unionist state are gone, and will not be coming back – nationalism today is confident, outward looking and only going forward."

SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole described the comments as "depressingly bleak".

"They say a lot more about her own politics than they do about the journalists and lawyers she’s seeking to diminish," he said.

"There is no victory for political unionism in pursuing this McCarthyite tactic of othering members of the judiciary, lawyers, academic or journalists just because you disagree with them."

Prof Harvey said the comments needed to "be viewed in context".

"They are the latest example of a pattern at work in this region," he said.

"I have been concerned for some time about the labelling that continues here. It has real-world consequences for individuals and communities."

The chair of the NUJ's Belfast and District branch, Robin Wilson, said the remarks "represent an appallingly blinkered view of professional journalists".

"They imply every reporter, photographer, editor or PR person should carry their supposed religion as if it were a number on their back and jockey with every other of the opposite religion for influence," he said.

He claimed the Brexiteer represented the regional media as if it were a "sectarian tug of war".

"This gross stereotyping of the profession comes at a time where our members already report to us all too frequently instances of threat and abuse, motivated by sectarianism and other forms of intolerance, directed at them," he said.

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