Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Have we Learned our own Lessons? Book Review of John Brewer’s Peace Processes

Mon 20 December 2010, 3:17pm

imageNorthern Ireland’s peace process has been promoted as an international success story. The Republic’s Department of Foreign Affairs has its Conflict Resolution Unit, which aims to disseminate the ‘lessons’ of the Northern Ireland peace process. And some of the prominent players in our peace process have travelled abroad to other troubled spots to share their experiences.

Despite its setbacks and maddeningly slow pace, our peace process has delivered a peace of sorts and from an international comparative perspective it is one of the more ‘successful’ ones. Not surprisingly, the Northern Ireland case is one of the major examples discussed in John Brewer’s latest book, Peace Processes: A Sociological Approach (Polity, 2010).

The title of the book does not immediately indicate that it is written for a popular audience and indeed this is the case – it is an unapologetically academic book. But in it Brewer makes a case for ‘public sociology’ – a sociology that has relevance beyond the walls of the university and can offer practical insights to policy makers, practitioners, and an informed citizenry.

I think Brewer succeeds in this; and that the book can and should be read by a wider audience. Readers in Northern Ireland should be interested for two main reasons:

  • Its focus on the dynamics of ‘social’ peace processes provides insights into how ‘civil society’ (i.e. peace and reconciliation organisations, churches, etc) can promote the peace – alongside a ‘political’ peace process steered by political elites
  • Its extended case study of the way Northern Ireland has handled issues of memory, ‘truth’ and victimhood (p. 169-192) puts that ongoing process in perspective and reminds us of what we might lose if we allow ‘dealing with the past’ to slide down the agenda.

First, ‘social’ peace processes. Many people think of peace processes solely in the terms of political negotiations and the establishment of new political and economic institutions. While not discounting the importance of these, Brewer says that they are only part of the story and argues that we should also be concerned about what happens at the social level. There are particularly interesting chapters on ‘gender’ and ‘emotions’ that identify some of the issues and challenges of making the peace at a social level.

For example, in his discussion of ‘restorative justice’ Brewer notes that restorative justice programmes have been effective in some contexts, like reintegrating ex-prisoners, but claims that they rely almost exclusively on the emotions of ‘shame’ and ‘guilt’. This limits their impact among the wider population so he calls for a deliberate cultivation of hope and forgiveness. This does not mean he wants to bring Christian discourses into the public sphere – indeed, he says that often ‘Christian’ language is unproductive, especially if the conflict has had religious dimensions. Rather he thinks that public policies can promote emotions of hope and forgiveness more generally, and that this can be done through policies that promote equality and through the construction of ‘public spaces of forgiveness.’ He says,

‘Forgiveness in symbolic form is performed via public statements in the press, on television, at ‘truth’ recovery forums, such as public enquiries and ‘truth’ commissions; in civil society workshops, seminars or public lectures devoted to the topic; at citizenship education forums; during religious services, debates in parliament and political assemblies or in submissions at courts of law. … Public ‘forgiveness ceremonies’ could be devised as part of cultural (and religious) practices, and policy makers could design special spaces of forgiveness for this purpose as part of the peace process.’ (p. 137)

Second, ‘how we remember’ in Northern Ireland. The phrase ‘how we remember’ may be new to readers. Brewer uses it rather than ‘dealing with the past’ and I think that ‘how we remember’ has more positive connotations. ‘Dealing with the past’ implies that the past can be dealt with and then forgotten forever. But ‘how we remember’ allows space for people to hold on to their legitimate memories, while at the same time being open to others’ interpretations of the past (at least ideally).

Although Northern Ireland has not had an official truth commission, Brewer says that it is ‘perhaps the most advanced’ of all post-violence societies in addressing issues around memory, ‘truth’ recovery, and victimhood (p. 169). He also points out that Northern Ireland’s post-violence transition has been better-funded than any other in the world: ‘… the resources devoted to peace in Northern Ireland exceed the GDP of most other countries undergoing similar post-conflict transitions’ (p. 169).

Brewer writes favourably about the recommendations of the Consultative Group on the Past, reproducing substantial descriptions of the recommendations from the Report, saying that ‘They are worth noting at length because of their potential value to other post-violence societies. … This is an impressive set of recommendations, with an even-handedness that seems suitable for the purpose and instructive for elsewhere’ (p. 182-183).

At the time when this book went to press, it must have seemed as if the Government would implement at least some of the recommendations – Brewer notes that the Government announced its support for the Report, except the provision for financial compensation for all victims. Similarly, Ronald Wells’ recent book Hope and Reconciliation (Liffey, 2010) expressed optimism that the recommendations would be heeded.

But this is looking increasingly unlikely. Apart from Owen Paterson’s recent statements on leaving the past to historians to sort out, the Consultative Group’s own website, www.cgpni.org – which once contained the full text of the report – has been allowed to expire (visitors are now redirected to a Chinese site). It is almost as if the Government hopes we will all forget about what the Consultative Group said. (At least the Report can still be accessed on a dedicated Slugger commentblog!)

This prompts me to ask: has Northern Ireland even learned the lessons from its own peace process?

You can buy a copy at Slugger’s own Bookstore.

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Comments (34)

  1. fitzjameshorse1745 (profile) says:

    “has Northern Ireland even learned the lessons from its own peace process?”

    The question suggests that there are lessons……specific lessons to be learned…and like a School Leaving Certificate, we should not be allowed to live our lives until we have a kinda licence which permits us to demonstrate we have learned the lessons that the Conflict Resolution people at QUB set for us. They (academics) with journalists and lawyers are the only people telling us that we need a lesson from our peace process.
    Personally ……being 17 in 1969 and 45 at Good Friday 1998 I feel I learned more than enough within that time. My contemporaries learned as much with different emphasis. Theres not a one size fits all “resolution”.
    No doubt some would say I am in denial, or “angry” that I have untold pain ……but I am a surprisingly balanced person (with a chip on each shoulder) and have passed the full archive of resolution on to my kids so that they do the learning. I have needed no mediation in this. Nor does anyone else to find their way thru it.

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  2. The Word (profile) black spot says:

    I see no reference to repentance. Forgiveness without repentance is fraught with danger.

    There are those in this society who have moralised their behaviour into pseudo-religious justifications of violence and threat of violence as if to suggest that there really is no way that their positions can be found wanting. That way lies Bosnia.

    Peace requires the removal of limitations put on love by sectarianism, nationalisms, and even class warfare. We are still a long way from peace, and it is only for the pressures brought to bear on this conflict by ethical human beings that there is peace at all. Failing even to mention these people is a grave error of omission.

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  3. 241934 john brennan (profile) says:

    We don’t learn and don’t care. For example- abolishing the Parades Commission was a done deal between Sinn Fein and Dup. What was put in its place. Today’s answer from the slow learners is another British appointed Parades Commission

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  4. Nunoftheabove (profile) says:

    The Word

    Let’s not forget that it’s the chirstian churches in NI which are the sects to which the word sectarianism refers in this context. And let’s not also forget that the two principal protagonists of the war on the state of Bosnia were fanatically Christian and both enjoyed considerable support from their churches for their acts which included unspeakable war crimes including genocide.

    So let’s have a good deal less of the ‘pseudo-religious’ nonsense please – christianity is neither a solution to the problems here or in Bosnia – it bears a heavy heavy weight in responsibility terms for the conflicts though. Does it have anything approaching a conscience about any of that and demonstrate any sense of shame about it ? Nah, didn’t think so.

    Ireland will one day be peaceful when it washes itself squeaky clean from the filthy stains of christian sectarianism. It is unlikely to happen before that happy day for humanity.

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  5. granni trixie (profile) says:

    I think that we can salvage something from the conflict. For example,up until 1976 say, I think it was assumed that if only “the silent majority” (as they were called then) mobilised “against the men of violence” the troubles would “end” (note that “process” only gained prominence much later). “Talking to men of violence” was also a no no for many,yet now it is clear that the extremes have to be taked to (infact they are now running the coutnry). The middle ground was expected to be more influential than seems to have been the case …except….I think that many sectors of society have been influential in changing cultural values,values contributing to the ‘success’ of our peace process. The lesson is that cultural change comes about extremely slowly. You have only to look at denial and resistence to acknowledging the existence of sectarianism until recent times to see this in action.

    I could go on and on as unlike some here this subject interests me very much but heck,guess I’ll now have to buy and read the book.

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  6. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Republic’s Department of Foreign Affairs has its Conflict Resolution Unit”

    This didn’t stop the Department of Foreign Affairs facilitating the ‘war by other means’ strategy. A transcript of Adam’s words released by RTE’s Prime Time sheds some light on the strategy: “”Ask any activist in the North did Drumcree happen by accident, and they will tell you ‘no’ .. And they are the type of scene changes that we have to focus in on, and develop, and exploit.”.

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  7. The Word (profile) black spot says:

    Nun

    I think you’ll find that the major aggressor in Bosnia were the Serbs and that they were a very secular people with church attendance as low as 1%.

    War, genocide, violence have their origins in the limitation of love of the Old Testament, where specific genocides were justified when done by the Israelites. These things have no basis in Christianity whose”chosenness” defined by its name means that God made man and God taught him the example of good that he must be preparted to die before committing evil.

    The “filthy stains of Christian sectarianism” are in reality the deliberate persual of the strategy of self-sustaining division by pseudo-religions such as Orangeism and Irish republicanism.

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  8. fitzjameshorse1745 (profile) says:

    I think Granni Trixie (as is often the case) gets to the heart of it all.
    But ultimately we CAN be interested (indeed totally ommitted) to conflict resolution ……without attending a single “seminar” or reading a single book or engaging in community psycho babble.

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  9. Nunoftheabove (profile) says:

    The Word

    The orthodox church undewent a significant revival among serbs following the Tito era and over 80% of the now Serbian people proclaim allegiance to the church. Arkan an the white eagles – all funded directly by the orthodox church. The serbian synod publically pushed for a Great Serbia’s establishment in straightforwardly mitaristic terms immeditely following the Vance Owen plan. Serbian people either openly supportive of the Bosnian state’s establishment and/or simply pacifist in the face of the church-backed serb aggression were dismissed as leading churchmen as “helping the evil forces that are opposed to God”.

    Pravoslavlje more than once claimed that no women or children had ever been detained, tortured or harmed by Serb forces. The breathtakingly wicked Patriarch Pavel consistently blamed all of the atrocities that occurred in Bosnia on Bosniaks (including the atrocities committed on the Bosniaks themselves, memorably).

    The serb paramilitaies were very loudly supported by the church and that support was a not inconsiderable element of the conflict there. Karadzic himself said that “The West will be grateful to us one day, because we elected to defend Christian values and Christian culture.” Interesting relationship with the Church of England too, as you probably know very well, the serbian orthodox church…

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  10. The Word (profile) black spot says:

    Nun

    You’ll possibly know that the major concern of the Serbs in Bosnia was the growth in the population of Muslim Bosnians to around 45%.

    They were in effect threatening to take control from the Serbo-Croat goverrnment. The defining difference was in my mind heavily influence by the view that the Muslims were inferior mainly because they were poorer.

    There are a lot of parallels to our own conflict. The most important is that the main protagonists have nothing in their value systems that disencentivises war. Both are Old Testament values systems, especially the Orange, but even the republicans, even if they themselves think they are outside the scope of the Bible.

    “Us and them” is the force of their divisive agendas, and that’s the fertile soil for war.

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  11. Nunoftheabove (profile) says:

    The Word

    You’re perhaps slightly more forgiving of expansionist, genocidal fascist murderers than I am. Well, that’s not quite true as there’ s no apparent perhaps at all. You are and I’m not.

    This AND no shortage of understanding of and forgiveness for pederast priests and dmsiissal of Bosnian muslims as ‘inferior’ – quite a day’s posting. Tell me, just how cushy WAS life in south america in the late forties incidentally ?

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  12. The Word (profile) black spot says:

    Nun

    I think you’re losing the argument.

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  13. Nunoftheabove (profile) says:

    The Word,

    I doubt I would do with you, certaintly. You do your best to keep changing the subject (very slippery in argument, you bible-munchers) – but if you can manage to address a single point puit to you head-on with direct cogent arguments and actual evidence rather than vague white noise and semi-lucid psychobabble about angels and fairies and Gods who are both sons and fathers (but also partly mothers and ghosts, on the side), then be in no doubt that you’ll be even more persuasively pasted.

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  14. another (profile) says:

    The N.Ireland peace process was important because it hastened the death of Republican lachrymose history. That is, the notion that Republicans were perpetually going to suffer under British rule.

    Jewish history, for example, remains infused with existential angst, and lachrymose notions, dating right back to the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BC. These notions are used to support the maltreatment of the Palestinians, for ex..

    The peace process revealed that Irish Republicans, in the main, had grown up and learnt to leave history behind; leaving their detractors permanently poisoned with thoughts of the Northern Bank; La Mon, Kingsmill, Teeban, Darkley, Omagh etc, etc…..(The iront being that in their deisre to continually delve back into history and bring these events to the fore, they unintentionally share a platform with the dissidents and their backwoodsman view of life and history).

    Have you moved on?

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  15. The Word (profile) black spot says:

    Nun

    My argument has been consistent, rather than slippery.

    Another

    About Irish republicans learning to leave history behind, that must be why they have all these remembrance events. Of course, they’re only trying to outdo the Orange.

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  16. Nunoftheabove (profile) says:

    The Word

    Consistently inconsistent, like most bible-believing christians, and a characteristically stubborn unwillingness to engage. Your self-esteem must be low and your credulity and self-doubt sky high, putting so much trust in a man-made gibberish text, replete with the most immoral teaching imagiable in parts. Not just unelightened but anti-enlightenment, and unbelievably arrogant into the bargain.

    It’s just as well for all of us that there’s not a word of truth in any of it.

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  17. Nevin (profile) says:

    Gladys, the CGP report and related material can be found in the CAIN bibliography using a ‘consultative group on the past’ search.

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  18. granni trixie (profile) says:

    I do find that reading books is helpful for working through the experience of living through the troubles (remember: “we have had the experience but missed the meaning”? (Elliot).). I collect books about NI from say 1969-75 and find that defintions of the problems and analysis of how to address it tend to be sound in the light of hindsight (although it took to around the 1990s for identity and cultural discourse to come to the fore). Even Terence ONeills 2 books suggest this.

    FJH: I appreciate what I expect to be the first of many seasonable compliments (Mr Granni loves my cooking – I’m not all talk).

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  19. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    FitzJ : “……. They (academics) with journalists and lawyers are the only people telling us that we need a lesson from our peace process.

    Personally ……being 17 in 1969 and 45 at Good Friday 1998 I feel I learned more than enough within that time. My contemporaries learned as much with different emphasis. Theres not a one size fits all “resolution”.

    No doubt some would say I am in denial, or “angry” that I have untold pain ……but I am a surprisingly balanced person (with a chip on each shoulder) and have passed the full archive of resolution on to my kids so that they do the learning. I have needed no mediation in this. Nor does anyone else to find their way thru it…….. ”

    Just a few years ahead of you and I would go along with most of that !

    As I have not read the book, I cannot comment on the contents or of it’s propositions until I have done so.

    Five or six years back I was speaking to someone in a mixed area in the Mid Ulster, a Catholic and Nationalist friend who because of their cultural activities, was regularly interfacing with mixed audiences. I asked him if there was any softening in the attitudes on the ‘other side’ or if things had returned to normal. He considered for a moment.

    ” The best answer now that I can give you to that” he said ” ’tis like after a divorce, most get on with life while being wary about the past and what they talk of, but there is more folk who will keep fighting the divorce issues for the rest of their born days ”

    That probably distilled the essence of the situation up there for me as far as most ordinary people go on the Nationalist side and I suspect quite a few in the Unionist side of the equation also.

    However there is a major social/ political difference between both sides : despite the regular attempt by a minority of Unionists to rub Republican noses in what they have not got, most young educated, confident Nationalists know exactly just how far they have come compared to their grandparents generation and what the possibilities are for them.

    Whatever problems the Celtic Tiger left behind, one of it’s benefits was also allowed a generation of Irish teens on this Island to come to maturity believing that they had the capacity to be as good as any in the world and better than most. That attitude has not gone away you know !

    On the Unionist side whatever face is put on it all know the reality of their situation, they have lost total political power in the Six Counties and they will never again regain the control and influence that they exercised for over half a century. From the suspension and abolishing of Stormount every time they sat down at a table with Nationalists, they got up with less power than they had sat down with.

    There is no need for me to advance that argument, goodness knows Turgon and his kind have made it often enough at election times and no amount of bating Republicans about what they have not got will not change that fact.

    On the wider scene, and again to note that I have not read the book, in most of the ‘Peace Process’ related analysis there is one gigantic elephant in the room, the lack of acknowledgement that there was and is a Low Intensity War that the Brits insist in referring to as a ‘Low Intensity Conflict’ and consequently arising from this unacknowledged war there was decades of Counter Insurgency Operations for which the British Establishment marshaled every military, political, social, religious, diplomatic and every other considerable resource at their disposal.

    Conflict : 1. serious disagreement, 2. long lasting armed conflict, 3. a difference of opinion, principles etc ( little Oxford English dic.)

    War : 1. a state of armed conflict between different nations,states,or groups, 2. a long contest between rivals or campaign against something. ( little Oxford English dic.)

    We will not get an overview or real insight into ‘The Troubles’ until such time as this simple fact is acknowledged. It is still denied by the British and Southern establishments. However if, as I referred to in some recent posts, Low Intensity War / Conflict + Northern Ireland is googled around two million results are thrown up.

    If in turn a there is a little research done on some of these entries it will be quickly obvious that not alone is the Northern Irish Low Intensity War acknowledge by British Interests, they brag of their expertise gained in this war. They have in fact turned it all into a nice little earner for the MOD and the individuals concerned.

    Examining the ‘Peace Process’ in isolation from the overall and ongoing Counter Insurgency Operations of The Low Intensity War / Conflict is only a sideshow and a distraction from what really happened.

    However that denial and distortion is too an ongoing part of the ongoing Counter Insurgency Operation of the Continuing Low Intensity War.

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  20. Nevin (profile) says:

    “there is a major social/ political difference between both sides”

    MV, you might like to think that. I had the pleasure and privilege of working with people who made a positive difference, irrespective of class, creed or colour.

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  21. granni trixie (profile) says:

    MV:a few years ahead of FJH makes you about 107.(FJH:age at beginning of troubles 17! Didn’t really think you could get away with it did you?).

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  22. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Granni : as my old head master used to say ‘the gods are not mocked’ ! Earlier to-day I put back the clock a few years when on the phone to my niece, which of course had her agruing with her mother that she was three years older than she was admitting to.

    However what is a few years in the overall scheme of things, with the exception of my late father who was five years in 1922, my family have been in Irish liberation politics, four hundred and fifty years this year !

    A bit disappointed in Gerry; I thought a card and cake would have been in order, with all the cutbacks I could excuse the cake, but the card ? That may cost him a few votes in Louth if word of that got out!

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  23. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Nevin : ‘…..“there is a major social/ political difference between both sides”

    MV, you might like to think that. I had the pleasure and privilege of working with people who made a positive difference, irrespective of class, creed or color……..”

    Likewise here. Throughout out ‘The Troubles’ I have been taking part in cultural events up there, down here and across the water where I met people from all sides. While I do not wear my politics on my sleeve, neither if asked do I deny my beliefs or apologize for for them. No trouble across the water but one or two occasions in the North that while the exchanges were civilized, the atmosphere was so icy that it makes the weather out there now positively balmy!

    It has also led to some interesting and unlikely friendships along the way.

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  24. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    On the “lessons of the peace process”, the John Bew / Martyn Frampton / Inigo Gurruchaga book Talking to Terrorists is worth a read. He shows how a rather foggy analysis of why the IRA stopped has led to mistakes in approach being advised elsewhere in the world. It also looks at the Basque country as a comparison.

    Summed up, too much emphasis has been given (e.g. by Jonathan Powell) on the “talking at all costs” approach and too little weight given to the other circumstances which brought about the defeat of terrorist strategy, e.g. that the IRA were looking for a way out anyway. The peace process does not establish that you can talk an unwilling terrorist group into giving up. It may however show how you can talk one that wants to give up already into going ahead and doing that; and give them a soft landing they can spin as a kind of victory, so they have a life after it’s over. So it’s talking at the right time and in the right context, not just talking.

    The Republican electorate’s readiness to believe the portentous horse-shit the IRA regularly came out with to justify themselves was also a huge factor in the terrorists being able to make the change. Such credulousness may not necessarily be found in theatres of conflict where the habit of obedience to gunmen is less ingrained. It strikes me that the nature of this crucial hinterland of support for the terrorists will differ vastly country by country.

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  25. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Mainland Ulsterman : “The Republican electorate’s readiness to believe the portentous horse-shit the IRA regularly came out with to justify themselves was also a huge factor in the terrorists being able to make the change.”

    Munsterview 21 December 2010 at 2:34 pm : “Examining the ‘Peace Process’ in isolation from the overall and ongoing Counter Insurgency Operations of The Low Intensity War / Conflict is only a sideshow and a distraction from what really happened.

    However that denial and distortion is too an ongoing part of the ongoing Counter Insurgency Operation of the Continuing Low Intensity War ”

    There is a Planter, pro Crown Army, Pro British Crown Establishment narrative on this island since the first Norman Invasion. That is now only believed and held as fact by about 10% of the population on this Island.

    It may also me held by by some Empire Loyalist right wingers in our neighbouring Island, but it is a narrative that not one mainstream British Historian or apologist for Empire would now propagate. Should they attempt to do so, they would be the subject of condemnation and ridicule from their collective, enlightened colleauges.

    Over there, as here in Ireland such a narative is now relageted to the crontrarian sphere of such as Kevin Myres and Senator Harris, the latter givin a Senate Seat by Bertie for having spun a positive before the last election for Fianna Failed when the rest of us were attempting to expose the facts that have since come into the public arena causing Fianna Failed to crash to support levels of Sinn Fein!

    Is it surprising then given the Unionist propensity for their “electorate’s readiness to believe the portentous horse-shit” to use Mainstream Ulstermans own terminology, that most Republicans do not even bother to counter such views, content to wait for such thinking to be bypassed by the onward march of history.

    In terms of world history the failed Plantation of Munster was but yesterday. The ‘Mainstream Unionists’ of that time were fairly smug and absolute in their views when they erected a notice by the main gate of the newly walled Bandon Town that read ……

    ‘ Turk, Jew Or Athiest may enter here but not a Papist’

    The fact that this story, if told in the average protestant marching band hall in the North, would bring cheers and ‘high fives’ from the assembled band says all there is to say about just how far we have come in changing attidutes in some quarters. ‘Manistream Unionist’ views are but a more reasoned and articulated narative of this viseral reaction to those seen of a lesser people.

    Sadly history has also shown that such attitudes can seldom be changed and can only be replaced as the ethos, dominating or influncing public policy when those propagating such views are no longer in a position of political power to impose their views.

    In the arse end off Empire that is Northern Ireland, a day will too come when such views are as much on an embarasment to the average Northern Protestant as they now are to the Majority of the Twenty Six County Protestant Community. These views have about as much support in all educated and liberal public life and politics in the large Island across the water as the views of Hitler supporters have in modern Germany.

    Meanwhile ‘Mainstream Unioniost’, Narrative that once prevailed as the majority ethos in all thirty two counties of Ireland is now down to three northern counties and even in these counties it is not an total county population view, simply a ever shrinking majority one.

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  26. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    MV,
    Ahem. It’s “Mainland Ulsterman” not “Mainstream Unionist” – but then close attention to the detail of other people’s arguments, or even their names, isn’t necessary when history is on your side. I guess!

    “… most Republicans do not even bother to counter such views, content to wait for such thinking to be bypassed by the onward march of history.”

    Fantastic! Could you get any more ahistorical? And also, what a cop out.

    “In the arse end off (sic) Empire that is Northern Ireland, a day will too come when such views are as much on an embarasment (sic) to the average Northern Protestant as they now are to the Majority (sic) of the Twenty Six County Protestant Community. These views have about as much support in all educated and liberal public life and politics in the large Island (sic) across the water as the views of Hitler supporters have in modern Germany.”

    Your affection for the Province oozes through your touching words – you obviously know the place well and love the people. You seem to dislike the British population in Northern Ireland quite strongly. Are we just people you want to fight and defeat? The future is one of equality of respect between the national identities on the island. I see some are still struggling to get their heads around it.

    I’m really not sure what “these views” are that you’re talking about. I assume you’re annoyed that I described the Republican electorate in Northern Ireland as rather credulously buying into the bullshit narrative of the peace process sold by Adams. So, did they not accept it then? Or do you think this butcher’s self-justificatory accounts of the savagery of him and his pals are characterised by their honesty, generosity and love of the Britons he shares his home province with?

    I would not slag anyone off for their Irish identity and I don’t regard myself as superior to people of Irish identity. But I do regard myself as morally superior to supporters of violent Irish Republicanism and make no apology for that. I also feel morally superior to violent Loyalists, as all peaceful people should.

    “Meanwhile ‘Mainstream Unioniost’ (sic) Narrative that once prevailed as the majority ethos in all thirty two counties of Ireland is now down to three northern counties and even in these counties it is not an total county population view, simply a ever shrinking majority one.”

    I think most people accept that the situation of more or less parity between Prod and RC numbers in Northern Ireland is there for the foreseeable future. NI politics now reflects that stability. The reality is there will be no “victory” of one side over the other, nor should there be. To seek it is wrong.

    Your analysis depends wholly upon demonising an entire ethnic group as less worthy than yourself – and this after they have been subjected to 30 years of terrorism in the name of this Irish chauvinist belief system you still uphold. You are not better than other people – we are all equal on this earth.

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  27. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Mainstream Ulsterman : my apologies for getting the name wrong, I was answering ems and listening to the latest on Fianna Failure’s demise on the drivetime radio in addition to the odd post.

    Incidently as regards to ( sic), please feel free to be as (sic) as you like, I have frequently written here that I have a form of dylexia and as such if I forget a spell check as I apparently did here, the few mistakes highlighted were in fact a good result for me, given my usual!

    Demonising ? MU : “The Republican electorate’s readiness to believe the portentous horse-shit the IRA regularly came out with to justify themselves……….”

    I gave almost two decades promoting Republican politics to the taunths that ‘We had no electoral mandate’ We got that electoral mandate, we are possibly one election away from now becoming the biggest party in the North and the leaders of the main opposition in Southern parlament. Now that we have a mandate the jeers and dismissal are transferred to the Sinn Fein electorate as a whole. Where is the respect in that ?

    MU : “Your affection for the Province oozes through your touching words – you obviously know the place well and love the people….”

    Yes I do have an affection for the province and not just the Six County part of it you live in either. However staying with the British occupied part of it for the moment, I attended cultural events up there all during the Counter Insurgence Operations of the Low Intensity War / Conflict sometimes at the risk of my personal safety.

    The likes of the late James Simmons knew my background as I did his and it never interfered with our friendship. Davie Hammon was responsible for I taking my writing and lecturing seriously and doing it on a professional basis. He impressed on me the importance of it and of explaining the South to the North and the same in reverse. I could cite Marie Jones and others I worked and associated with up there, but it would be an insult to what we had and have because politics did not enter into it, we all respected shared and celebrated a common culture on this Island.

    Indeed the term these Islands would be more appropiate beacuse all of us had and do have the ‘Other Island’ and European perspective also.

    Just minutes before your posting I had send this em to a researcher in the States, it speaks for itself and I will allow it to also speak to ‘Mainstream Ulster’ This is how you play to the outside world !

    Bill,

    just happen to be at the desk today and answering things as they are
    coming in, I am usually a week behind !

    One nice story about ‘………….’ here, I had done the ring tour with a young
    Australian woman who was visiting in the late eighties. As we were coming off the
    Southern ring I see a man finishing working with a scythe. I immediately
    turned back and stopped. We got out and I invited the man to
    demonstrate the cutting process to her and when he had finished I
    explained to her how the implement had transformed agriculture.

    When I finished the man said ” Ah Jasus sure I have you now, aren’t you the man that did the book on ‘………..’ “.

    I said that I was and immediately he pointed out a place across the glen where over two hundred mainly elderly men, women and children were fleeing from an English army party coming from the west behind them. The scouts for the party then came back to say that the English were also coming from the east and it was a narrow mountain trail half way up the steep mountain side. There was no escape!

    Some weeks before the English had massacred all left behind in the ‘………..’ Camp. There was panic, they also knew that the young, even if they were spared, would be sold into slavery. One woman covered her children’s heads with her shawl and jumped to her death in the valley floor below. Most of the others followed and the English massacred the remainder and also threw them over the side.

    The Irish Aussie lass became quite angry and said among other expletives described the English as ‘bad bastards ” I did not intervene, there was silence for a moment or two . Then the man said quietly ” the ‘…………..’ may have his reasons for silence but I can’t let
    that go, you are far too nice a person to go through life with hate….”

    I am an old man at the end of my life and you are at thestart of yours as a full woman and I have more seen of life than you ! No the English were not particularly bad, you had one group of people in power over another at that time and they abused that power.

    That is what people do, when our own crowd put on red coats they went out India and Africa and did the very same things there as the English did here. Most of the ordinary English are no more guilty for what happened here than you as a white person are for what white soldiers
    did to the blacks in your own country ”

    We said our goodbyes and got back into the car. She was silent for a few miles and then began to cry. I pulled into the side of the road and let her cry out. I then asked why….

    ” Well I guess he was right, I am now a woman and I have just learned what compassion and tolerance means, that man was so wise, so dignified and so free of any negativity, he has totally changed the way I see the world”

    There is a good political website called Slugger O’Toole and while it is 90% Unionist, I deliberately blog on it upholding a Catholic /Nationalist / Republican viewpoint. There was uproar when I first started commenting, but I am now accepted as a blogger on it. See my
    last post around 4OC and then read the entire article and comments. I write, blogg under
    ‘Munsterview’

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2010/12/20/have-we-learned-our-own-lessons-book-review-of-john-brewers-peace-processes/

    The views of Mainstream Unionist are what we were up against and bear in mind that this character is one of the more reasonable ones.

    Will send you the book, Slan is beannacht, ‘………….’

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  28. Brian (profile) says:

    MV

    Slugger=90% unionist?

    Don’t you think that is a tad bit high?

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  29. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Brian,

    lazy labeling perhaps, this is the perception in Republican circles in the North. Now that you have raised the matter maybe Mick or whoever is minding the shop at the moment might give a a better estimate as to what demographics are reflected in the site.

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  30. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    Well , if we do have an international audience, welcome! The reader might not be aware that the version of events in Northern Ireland that you tell from your vantage point at the other end of the island is not shared by most people who actually live in Northern Ireland.

    It comes as a surprise, in my experience, to those who have previously only heard the Irish Republican side of things to find out that Irish Republicans did 60 per cent of the killing in the Troubles and the British state only 10 per cent. The other 30 per cent being done by Northern Irish terror groups in misguided attempts to get the Republicans to stop their killing campaign.

    By the early 70s, a people who had historically suffered more than their fair share of discrimination and structural disadvantage in Ulster over the centuries could no longer be seen as the more oppressed of the two communities. This was not the fault of the majority of peaceful Irish nationalists, but of a hardened ideologically-driven pro-violence section of that community – about 10 per cent of the Northern Irish population – who supported and cheered the mounting death toll of the “armed struggle” at that time.

    By the end of 1971 they had killed over 100 people and already established the pattern of violence for the next 30 years – relentless Republican violence, met with a lesser and generally diminishing violent response as the years wore on from the forces of law and order and from self-appointed vigilante groups from the majority community. Republicans went on to kill more than 2,000 people – and not one of those lives needs to have been lost.

    So when Munsterview defends this as if he’s standing up for an oppressed people, it’s not all it seems. Republicans became the oppressors 40 years ago and their victims still wait in vain for apologies and equal respect. These victims are not lords in castles or redcoats or some nonsense – just ordinary Northern Irish, British and Irish people whom Republicans deem to be expendable. Republicans could do this to us because they do not see Northern Irish people like me as their equals – they preferred to demonise and attack rather than give equal respect. They are unfair, cruel and intolerant and as one of the people who suffered at their hands, I am not letting them off the hook until they change and learn to face up to what they have done.

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  31. granni trixie (profile) says:

    Whilst it may be the perception of some (not mine) that contributers to Slugger are 90% unionist, I very much doubt that the evidence would support this.
    Surely the advantage of a site such as this is that one can get away from easy labels and be different to the label and attitudes ascribed to you by virtue of your community /religious backgorund.

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  32. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    Yup I’d say it’s hardly a home for unionists. My best guess in terms of leaningof contributors would be 65/35 the other way.

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  33. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Mainstream Ulsterman : we do have and International audience, some of it inadvertent. When researching Masonic matters some weeks back for a Stateside query, I was quite surprised to find how much of my own slugger contributions were now referenced in that regard on the net.

    It is two early in the year for another full scale ‘Masky’ type exchange and anyway there is no point. As I previously delineated, there are two main narratives here, that or the Planter and that of the Planted. Of course these will differ as that of the Former Slave owner narrative in the Southern States will differ from that of the descendants of those who were slaves in that period.

    To the British, Irish women and children captured and sold in to slavery were officially ‘ Indentured Servants’ yet I can cite accounts from British elites of where it was openly admitted that women were needed as sex slaves for the males in the English settlements, no different to what the Germans or Japanese did with Camp brothels and ‘Comfort Women’ in more recent times.

    I also have accounts again from impeccable English sources of Irish women in tobacco plantations whipped and forced to work naked weeding on their hands and knees in the tobacco rows….” where in which position they were frequently taken from behind by mulatto overseers”

    In fact towards the end of the slavery period, one of the biggest slave owners was an Anglican Bishop in the West Indies and he was one of the significant pro slavery advocates. When I first raised these matters in slugger, it was to considerable skepticism if I correctly recall.

    I also have an interesting perspective on narrative : some ten years ago an third generation Irish American went to a US University specializing in African / US slavery history with a view to doing a degree on Irish Slavery. The Afro / Americans were totally outraged, they had taken ownership of the slavery as something that ‘whites inflicted on blacks’ as it suited their historical narrative and world view. They regarded her study white slaves as in someway diminishing their cultural experience and narrative.

    They would not accept that slavery per se was a culture practiced by black and white, christian and jew, turk and atheist alike, they were secure in their victimhood, a farmilar phenomena to neutral readers of this site, and were not prepared to step outside the box.

    We again get back to what the old and now long dead man said to that young Australian woman, it was about power, who had power over who and how that power was exercised. Invariably it was exercised badly by those who held and exercised it.

    We are not the only ones glossing over raw wounds of history : Scottish Games and a celebration of Scottish culture are a major part of the America annual festival calender. These are linked back to Scottish Tourism and local area projects.

    However what is at the core of much of this Scottish mass emigration, the fact that the forceable dispossession and transport from hearth, kit and kin was done by wealthy Clan elders against their own poorer blood relatives is not examined in any great detail outside of specialist scholarship.

    It took the relatively recent films of Niall Jordan on Michael Collins and ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ to give some insights into the reality of The War Of Independence here in Ireland. The actual narrative was withheld for all the reasons explored by Friel in his play on the mapping and nomenclature. Neither was it a coincidence that one of the main historical advisers to the ‘Wind ‘ was ‘new generation’ historian still in his mid twenties at the time the film was made.

    Can anyone imagine what that film would have been if Professor John A Murphy or Owen Harris were the principle advisors ? I sat in at a history seminar for post grads last year where five young people around the table were wearing SF badges and I was glad to see, playing by the academic conference rules.

    First the degrees and Doctorates and then get the authoritative history out. Churchill once said that he believed that history would be kind to him……. as he intended to write it himself !

    Likewise I have no fear of the history of the Counter Insurgency Operations of the Low Intensity War narrative not dealing factually with the reality of the situation…… my sons generation of well qualified history masters and doctorates will write that narrative within the next five to ten years, and it will not be Maggie Tatchers or the Foreign Office propaganda version either.

    This generation of Republican historians will correctly explain a mainstream past and present to shape a new future on this island.

    The truth of the past would challenge the narrative of the present and the perception of a political reality that establishment opinion formers on these Islands were propagating. Some times the mask slips as in ‘The Weapons Of Mass Destruction’ lies and deception that resulted in millions of innocent Mid Eastern deaths and the wanton destruction of a country.

    In fact Blair and Bush, two self confessed ‘Christians’ may have instigated the elimination of Christianity from the neighboring countries of it’s birthplace, such is the reputation ‘Christianity’ and all associated with it now has in Islamic countries in the Middle East.

    We have three main Historical Narratives on this island, that of the Conquered, that of the Conquering and that of the Crown. Some times the latter two chimed together and at other times the planter narrative as in the Grattans Parliament period had a narrative at odds with the Crown.

    As I have previously outlined here, unless and until the reality of the Counter Insurgency Operations of the Low Intensity War / Conflict is admitted, then ‘Mainstream Ulsterman’ what happened to you, to your friends and to the many personal friends I buried up there remain hurts without explanation other than the fact that ‘ It was them that did it’, ‘war is hell’ and any other clichés or excuses that are usually trotted out.

    There is still a vested interest in ensuring that this truth do not emerge, one has only to look at the grotesque caricature of a ‘catholic / nationalist voice’ that I contested with and unmasked on this very site to see the lengths and detail some forces are prepared to go to in suppressing and detracting from that truth even on a site such as slugger.

    In intel and propaganda matters no detail is too small, in fact it is often the small details, painstakingly put in place that ‘sell’ the big picture and shape the narrative the hidden hands want on record.

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  34. [...] discussion about how Northern Ireland might deal with its past. Or, to use the phrase from his book Peace Processes: A Sociological Approach, no one is leading a discussion about ‘how we [...]

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