Opinion

Mary Kelly: Carla Lockhart filling the gap left in the DUP since Ruth Patterson's departure

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart of the DUP says the Drumcree parade is her priority. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart of the DUP says the Drumcree parade is her priority. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart of the DUP says the Drumcree parade is her priority. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

The personal attacks on Carla Lockhart on social media are despicable and entirely misogynist, as are those faced by many women in the public eye.

And we’re all looking forward to Sir Jeffrey and Edwin Poots being equally vocal in their condemnation of all such pathetic abuse.

That aside, the MP for Upper Bann is fast becoming my favourite Dupper. She is easily filling the gap left by the departure of Cllr Ruth Patterson, who once memorably described Saint Patrick as a “former Protestant” who would have nothing to do with the Irish Tricolour.

At the time, the Talkback host, William Crawley, gently reminded her that St Pat was around a thousand years before the Reformation, so clearly wouldn’t have been a Protestant.

But the boul’ Ruth insisted he would always be a Protestant to her.

Alas, Ruth and the DUP parted ways after the party parachuted Emma Little-Pengelly into her South Belfast constituency. She stood against ELP and lost, notwithstanding the sterling efforts by her election manager, one Jamie Bryson.

Wouldn’t you think, for a party that is fixated on historical battles, that they might get their terminology right?

Read more:Editorial: Leave Drumcree dispute in past

Read more:Why are the DUP and Orange Order still going on about Drumcree?

Read more:What is the Orange Order?

But no. On Sunday Politics, Ms Lockhart said the bonfires were an important part of her culture. She wanted their historic nature to be recognised as they were lit to welcome King William to Northern Ireland. What a far-seeing monarch he was in 1690, to envisage the state that would come into being in 1921.

Nor did Carla want to see to “eulogies”, effigies or flags burnt on any bonfire. This is a political representative who said it was her “priority” since becoming an MP in 2019 to resurrect a dispute that was put to bed, after much violence and loss of life 25 years ago, when she was a 10-year-old.

So let’s have no more attacks on anyone’s personal appearance, when there is so much fertile ground in what they say.

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So let’s hear it for Sammy Wilson, who tabled an Early Day Motion praising the Craigyhill bonfire as the “best of Northern Ireland”.

Once upon a time they were building ships, now it’s bonfires.

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Wasn’t it nice to see Arlene Foster enjoying a day out in Donegal to watch Orangemen from the county, as well as lodges from Monaghan, Cavan and Leitrim, on their annual parade in Rossnowlagh, an event that’s been taking place peacefully and respectfully for decades?

Donegal is one of nine counties in the Republic that have active members of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, with 44 Orange halls across the country.

Whether or not the 12th of July ever becomes a public holiday in the whole island, this is the sort of respect of both traditions that is entirely possible.

It was also evident in the gesture by Orangemen in Moneymore, who delayed the start of their parade last Sunday, until the bus carrying the Derry team after their victory in the All-Ireland Minor championship, passed through the village.

Many of the marchers even applauded the team as the bus went by.

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This will be the first Pride march in Belfast that I won’t be attending. My sister and I would regularly make a point of going to cheer them on, in honour of our late mother, who always liked to attend.

She remembered too well the days when gay people were prosecuted and vilified by society, so she wanted to show her support for them being allowed to celebrate their true selves.

But this year, organisers of the annual LGBTQI+ festival have disallowed Ulster Rugby from marching in the parade, due to the sport’s ban on transgender women playing in female contact games.

Ulster Rugby is governed by the Irish Rugby Football Union, which last year decided to change its gender participation policy, in line with guidance issued by World Rugby, that contact rugby for players in the female category should be limited to those who were born female.

A spokesman for Belfast Pride said trans, non-binary and gender diverse people should be supported accepted and celebrated within families, communities and across wider society.

No-one should dispute this. But they do their cause no good by flying in the face of basic common sense and a respect for those born with female bodies which are generally smaller and lighter than those of men.

At the risk of being labelled a Terf – a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, since you ask – I think sport needs to be exempt from blanket inclusion. Be realistic, be fair.