Wednesday, 26 May 2010

You Read it Here First

In January this year the Blether Region broached the subject of the highly distinctive set of beliefs and social interests shared by members of the professional Ulster-Scots lobby.

Today the Guardian reports that Nelson McCausland, who has previously addressed the British-Israel World Federation, is not only a creationist but "believes that Ulster Protestants are one of the lost tribes of Israel".

The revelation has already attracted criticism, and the reaction may well grow over the coming days.

Tantalisingly, the Blether Region has unearthed the following archived comment on a BBC Sunday Sequence programme:

"[…] when I was younger I was introduced to [British Israelism] through a then member of my Orange lodge and attended some meetings. Some people I met through it were pretty conventional Christians, one being Nelson McCausland. Others had what I now recognise as unpleasantly racist attitudes and a whole set of dodgy beliefs and associations."

Could this lodge have been Cross of St. Patrick LOL 688 or — less likely given its size — Ireland's Heritage LOL 1303?

A related issue is the fact that Members of the Legislative Assembly are apparently not currently required to disclose membership of individual Loyal Orange Lodges despite the obvious potential for conflicts of interest — in Mr. McCausland's case, when he determines what funding should go on Ulster-Scots dialect and culture. As several people who are either British Israelites or members of the same lodge stand to benefit materially, one might have thought that this was a relevant "non-financial interest", yet Mr. McCausland is one of a number of MLAs not to declare membership of the Orange Order, and most of those Assembly Members who do make a declaration in that regard fail to mention to which individual lodge they belong. Bizarrely, among those non-financial interests that Mr. McCausland sees fit to mention is his membership of the Linenhall Library — of limited relevance compared with his membership of LOL 688.

Clearly, those responsible for the Register of Members’ Interests need to become a good deal more proactive in issuing advice and ensuring uniformity.

As for Mr. McCausland's association with the British-Israel World Federation, no doubt it will attract more scrutiny as the story develops. For many observers, perhaps the key question will be whether the Federation should be considered white-supremacist in nature. If so, calls will grow for Mr. McCausland's resignation, and the BBC's continued employment of BIWF board member Dr. Clifford Smyth as the voice of its Twelfth coverage will become similarly controversial.

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