Edwin, Mairtín And …Jim…And Peter Robinson!

Congratulations if you are old enough to know that the headline is a tip of the hat to “Abraham, Martin and John” and Smokey Robinson.

So just to be clear…Edwin is Edwin Poots, DUP MLA for Lagan Valley and until earlier this week, Minister for Health in our power-sharing Executive. Jim is Jim Wells, the DUP MLA for South Down who has replaced him. Peter “Smokey” Robinson is our First Minister. And Mairtín is Mairtín Ó Muileoir who was Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast from 2013 to 2014.

This blog is not so much about the open war between factions in DUP…it is actually about “social media”.

It was always known that Robinson would “rotate” his team during the term of the current Assembly and generally assumed that Poots would be replaced by Wells. Indeed Poots has been hanging on for a while now. I think he was unsackable because he was under so much criticism, not just for his handling of the Department of Health (arguably the worst brief to have in the Executive) and more generally his image as a fundamentalist Christian and more broadly a lack of charisma.

In other words Poots is a target for entirely justified criticism of his handling of the Health portfolio (including a stupid and cruel ban on blood donations from gay people), entirely justified criticism of remarks that appear homophobic. The fact remains that Norn Irons leading political party is made up of fundamentalist Christians…but IN ITSELF there is no problem with that. Like it or not, a large number of people share these views…the only problem arises when these views are used to hurt other people.

But much of the criticism of Poots seems to be levelled against him on the basis of his (fundamentalist) religion. I am a little uncomfortable with that. I declare an interest…I have met him once…at a Health Service “achievement” event. He was perfectly pleasant and genuine. So many of these events, a Minister can show up, make a patronising speech (drafted by civil servants), have some photographs taken with award winners, before being whisked away in the Ministerial car. To his immense credit, Poots engaged with nurses, social workers, hospital kitchen staff etc. Not the sort of people that Norn Irons twitterati and blogging community would even notice. I was even more impressed to learn that Edwin Poots is a man capable of personal kindness.

Actually the fact that ANYBODY from ANY background is capable of personal kindness should not surprise anyone.

Of course there is a nice sub-text to this weeks comings and goings in DUP this week, not unlinked to divisions in the Party and a general crisis in the future of the Assembly.

Jim Wells…I have never met. I heard him speak once on a non-political issue and he seemed perfectly reasonable. Based on TV and Assembly appearances he seems assertive to the point of aggression. Of course he is also a fundamental Christian and I would expect him to the same negative political force that Poots was. I expect him to be more “in your face” about his beliefs.

Yet the criticism levelled at Wells this week is not so much about his politics but rather the fact that he has “blocked” so many people…his metrotextual critics on Twitter. It is suggested that he has no right to block his critics. “How dare he?” “How VERY dare he?” makes the metrotextuals realise that they are not nearly as important or relevant as they think they are. He challenges their belief in their own entitlement.

Ah but ” he is a politician” and he “should be accountable”. Indeed he IS accountable …to the electors in South Down. Not accountable to slightly obsessed “progressive” bloggers and tweeters in South Belfast.

A new Twitter game is in progress. People take a screenshot showing that Jim Wells has “blocked” them. The hashtag “BlockedbyJimWells” is a badge of honour. So much so that it has appeared on Slugger O’Toole, the house message board of Norn Irons “progressive” (letsgetalongerist) elite.

A small declaration here. I follow about one hundred people on Twitter and am followed by roughly two hundred. I have “blocked” a lot of people, mainly because I am not interested in what they have to say. It seems entirely reasonable. Nobody has a right to engage with me and I don’t have an obligation to engage with anybody.

Alas I have been TRYING to get Jim Wells to “block” me. But he does not seem to have got round to it.

I am of course criticised for not publishing comments on this Blog…if I believe them to come from members of the Alliance Party, which is a Party I believe to be anti-democratic and beneficiaries of (too uncritical) media coverage.

But Slugger O’Toole…now heres a thing.

At a Slugger-organised event some months ago. y third old friend Mairtín (Mairtín ÓMuilleoir) then Mayor of Belfast was guest of honour. He shook hands with every attendee. He was introduced as many attendees including Sluggerites will recall by Slugger apprentice, Doctor David McCann.

McCann introduced him as I recall “a man we like on Slugger” which was I think outside the brief but McCann is young. And a look thru Slugger archives would have shown that Ó Muilleoir and his media firm were not always flavour of the month on anti-nationalist Slugger O’Toole.

Indeed I don’t think it was entirely political. Journalists in Norn Iron are publicly neutral. It is a fiction in which journalists and politicians conspire. But Ó Muilleoir broke the code by being both journalist and (Sinn Féin) politician.

What changed?

Well Mairtín uses social media to a truly heroic extent. He has 16,000 followers on Twitter and follows 6,000. Certainly in the early months of his “mayoralty” I satirised his over-use of social media. While I acknowledge his outstanding success as a Mayor of Belfast, some of his tweets are truly risible. “best cup of coffee on Lisburn Road is at…” , “best soda bread on Falls Road”…”by old cycling mate….”, “my old jogger mate….” and the always bizarre “pictured with Clyde and BobbyJo Kaminsky of Boise Idaho outside City Hall”.

In other words……..his tweets are complete and utter shyyyyte. But eagerly seized upon by Belfasts bloggerati and twitterati. His handle is “newbelfast” and frankly the 16,000 followers include people who would not look at Gerry Adams or Gerry Kelly. Mairtín is the acceptable face of Sinn Féin…erudite and middle class. And if on occasions he had to break away from a cup of coffee with a local artist at the Cathedral Quarter to attend a rally in support of (arrested) Gerry Adams on the Falls Road……then the Belfast artistic, business and academic elite are remarkably forgiving.

I have always taken the view that Mairtín was little more than a shameless self-publicist who provides respectable cover for the hairy arse types in Sinn Féin, who scare off ordinary people. So Mairtín will probably be coming to a Westminster or Assembly ballot paper in the not too distant future.

But……..his speech to Sluggerites acknowledged the role of social media and he is a devotee. But how does he deal with negative comments on his Twitter feed. Simple. On the advice of his Buddhist chaplain (born on Falls Road and resident in San Francisco???) ………..he deletes them.

So in Social Media terms, Mairtin ÓMuilleoir is not that different from Jim Wells. Oddly nobody at Slugger remembered this.

See that’s the problem….being “good” on Social Media excuses everything. The MetroTextuals love being taken seriously.

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4 Responses to Edwin, Mairtín And …Jim…And Peter Robinson!

  1. bangordub says:

    Naturally I disagree with certain points above
    Most of it, however, I agree with.
    As an active twitterer I’m sure you are aware that it is a somewhat small circle and not representative of the wider electorate, the same as Slugger?
    Personally I view it as a bit of fun and a way of exchanging one liners.
    It is used by certain lazy journalists as a “source”. It is clearly not that.
    It is a start for a story, not a story in itself.

    • Agree with that, BD. Twitter is for self-promotion, fun or interesting links, throwing out the odd bit of rhetoric and generally being a smart-alec. My own tweets pretty much reflect that. Rarely had a serious discussion on it and the medium does not facilitate it.

      I think a lot of people got their fingers burned in the Scottish independence referendum by relying on Twitter and Facebook as weather-bells (despite my own scepticism even I was given cautious optimism by seeing all those online “Yes” badges and banners). Some day social media might be an ad hoc poll but not yet (a sizeable chunk of the 55% “No” in Scotland don’t use Facebook or Twitter even if a sizeable chunk of the 45% “Yes” do).

      I suspect many people exist in an echo-chamber of their own thoughts by selecting like-minded FB friends or Twitter followers. It can be dangerous if you don’t recognise it. On the other hand it is good to find that others think as you do, especially if you are in the minority. It’s a double-edged sword.

      In relation to the DUP, well I described some parts of Derry, Down and Armagh as the Irish “Alabama” and I’ll stick by that. The Tea Party movement and the Christian Right in the United States are eerily close in their ideology to their contemporary Scots-Irish brethren.

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