McConaghie shares the fate of Titanic
Thursday 22 November 2012
I love Northern Ireland. I go as often as I can.
With the opening of the Titanic quarter in Belfast, a brand new visitors’ centre at the Giant’s Causeway and Derry becoming 2013 City of Culture there has never been a better time to visit.
Derry’s rich political history, its city walls and the music you hear wherever you go make it a city of history and culture. In 2013 that will be officially recognised.
The north Antrim coast road is perhaps my favourite drive in the world. It swoops along with the sea as your constant companion and takes in tiny fishing ports and bustling holiday resorts.
At Carrick-a-Rede every spring, salmon fishermen stretch a rope bridge worthy of Indiana Jones across the maelstrom between the cliffs and a rocky offshore outcrop.
Brave souls can cross the swinging bridge for themselves.
Belfast’s shipyards in 1912 built the largest, most luxurious passenger liner the world had ever seen. They launched her into Belfast Lough and proudly named her the Titanic.
A century later Belfast has created the Titanic Quarter.
Much more than a museum, you can still visit the original dry-dock and slip where the mighty behemoth of the oceans was built and launched.
Today Belfast is peaceful. I walked up the Shankill and down the Falls, two roads that have featured in many headlines over recent years.
Huge political murals make this a fascinating place to visit.
The best pub in the city is called The Morning Star.
At Bushmills they have been making whiskey for the last 400 years. After a taste or two I had to agree they have just about got the recipe right.
Best of all is the Giant’s Causeway (above) – the jewel of Northern Ireland‘s landscape.
The new multimillion-pound visitors’ centre seeks to tell its story. But the National Trust has chosen to tell the Causeway’s history in several ways – at least one of them unbelievable.
Science tells us the thousands of regular sculpted hexagonal basalt columns are the result of volcanic activity. Cooling liquid rock sculpted the vast and unique outcrop jutting into the waves.
Here in this land of myths you can perhaps understand why the National Trust also relates the ancient legend of the giant Finn McCool and how he created the Causeway.
Much more incredible is that here in the new centre the National Trust has caved in to local religious bigots and included a good dose of creationist nonsense.
You can read, in this supposedly educational centre, the theory that God created the Earth and thus the Causeway, fully formed, just six thousand years ago and that Darwin and his evolutionary theories are nonsense.
So who persuaded the National Trust to include this garbage?
Let me introduce David McConaghie, leader of the Caleb Foundation.
This fundamentalist fire and brimstone bunch is closely linked to Ian Paisley, his Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and his Free Presbyterian Church as well as the Orange Order.
It is totally male, rabidly anti-Catholic, against abortion under any circumstances and nastily homophobic.
And its main mission is promoting creationism in Northern Ireland.
In his day job McConaghie was election agent, speechwriter and office manager for Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson.
McConaghie is also a minister of Ian Paisley’s fundamentalist Free Presbyterians. He is press officer and spokesman for the church.
With the Independent Orange Order, he donned his bowler hat and orange sash to join provocative marches through Northern Ireland’s Catholic communities.
You may find the name David McConaghie familiar. Perhaps because this upstanding member of Ulster society hit the headlines recently when he was arrested in connection with the placing of a voyeuristic camera in the public toilet in the MP’s office where he worked.
I’m sure his God will forgive McConaghie but I’m not sure Paisley, David Simpson MP or those down at the Orange lodge ever will.
Meanwhile the best news is that public opinion has made the National Trust think again. Last month they watered down their creationist rubbish at the Causeway visitors centre.