Working class sectarian living is not caused by middle class bigotry, but a pervasive willingness to turn a blind eye

Newton Emerson has two good columns out today. I’ll start with the one in the Irish Times in which he takes Danny Kennedy to task for the old PUP nostrum of middle-class bigotry being harder to tackle than that of the working class.

Importantly, he notes:

From adolescent rioting through to active paramilitary membership, everything generally considered ‘most problematic’ about sectarianism is correlated directly with deprivation, and hence at least with perceptions of class.

So how, he asks, does this middle-class bigotry take responsibility for the dastardly actions largely to confined to the other end of NI’s relatively limited social scale:

Lurking behind that belief is the assumption that middle-class bigotry causes working-class bigotry. Frankly, this is also sometimes the hope. It would suit everyone from the political centre to the far left to identify a mechanism whereby sectarianism was conveyed from parlour to peace line, making blameless victims of its most awkwardly obvious protagonists.

That makes the failure to find such a mechanism all the more glaring. How does a hostile remark at the golf club become a brick through someone’s window in the less salubrious end of town? It is not good enough to say it sets the tone. How does the thrower of the brick detect the tone?

Good question.

Further inquiry might look at the lack of signal leadership (generally from members of the middle class) has allowed sectarianism to fester, unregarded out of convenience or embarrassment, so long as it keeps to areas like north, inner east and west Belfast.

Within wider society, the middle classes have generally detached themselves, drifted off to the suburbs, and certainly in the early peace process era made the alienation of working class Protestants more visible and more frightening.

The decline of loyalism into gangsterism, despite the efforts of some of its political representatives (not to mention considerable amounts of well-intentioned government funding), has been a shaming experience.

In 2003, Slugger published its one and only major study The Long Peace: The future of Unionism in Northern Ireland. In it, we referenced Robert Putnam’s landmark study of regional government in Italy, who…

…asked why some regions have become legislative pioneers, able to drive renewal and build support among voters, while others are incompetent, corrupt and despised by the people they should serve.

Successful regional government has emerged in regions that display the civic values of ‘co-operation, trust, reciprocity, civic engagement and social well-being.’

Regional government has failed where uncivic values predominate: ‘defection, distrust, shirking, exploitation, isolation, disorder, and stagnation.’

That, at the very least, requires a rediscovery what remains valuable about the middle ground.

  • terence patrick hewett

    I know it’s a cheap shot: but the Reagean joke:

    “what is wrong with an actor as a Presiident when we have had a clown for the last five years”

    Seems to spring to mind.

  • terence patrick hewett

    The working class,
    Can kiss my arse,
    I’ve got the foreman’s
    Job at last,

    And that is why I left the UK.

    And that is why I came back.

  • terence patrick hewett

    The Great Game commences: Ireland is bringing their ball back on to the field.

  • billypilgrim1


  • terence patrick hewett

    You destroyed us so we will destroy you: we oldies are very, very dangerous people:

    Remember the ethnic cleansing of Southall’s families: it evinces absolutely no sympathy at all; the 60,000-odd people who were driven from their homes. It was a cultural destruction, more complete than the Blitz, more complete than the bombing of Dresden; more complete than the nuking of Hiroshima. In those cities their shattered cultures at least arose from the ashes; Southall’s never will this side of Armageddon; so vindictive, so contemptuous and so petty. I have worked in almost 20 different countries and the quickest way I know to get dead is to interfere in native politics: I never have, that is why I am still alive and Blair Peach is dead: do not complain, that is the risk he took.

    Before the destruction of the 1950’s began and the reduction to the vice ridden Bidonville it is today, Southall had a proud civic culture and history. They suffered grievously during WW2 as the two links below amply demonstrate: and their reward for bravery was cultural annihilation.

    A Four-year-old’s Memory of Mother’s Death

    Under Attack: Living with the Bombs

    It was as if society regarded Southall’s working classes to be of a lower order of humanity that was unable to experience the emotion and loss of their community; a brute order with a debased culture of no value. The enormity of what the liberal elites did to Southall and elsewhere, in the name of social engineering is now beginning to sink in. We get calls to fix our broken society by the very people who broke it in the first place. Like post Apartheid South Africa, we want a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where the enforcers are encouraged to admit that everything they have implemented in the name of social engineering in the last fifty years has been a giant, tragic, cruel, wicked and traumatic social experiment inspired by some very base motives. Those who do not come from those smashed communities do not even begin to understand the depth of the loss, the contempt and the anger. People justly feel betrayed and marginalised by the very organizations that should have protected them.

    But it is the re-writing of history that is so vile: as John le Carre so memorably asserted “all over the world beastly people are making our time into nothing.”

    So just remember, if it wasn’t for the bravery and the sacrifice of the poor disembowelled people of Southall you wouldn’t have a country to live in: for truly they gave their tomorrow for your today.

  • billypilgrim1

    Sorry, I’m still none the wiser.

    Again: huh?

  • terence patrick hewett

    When it happens to you you will.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Never took to old Max (“heavily bowdlerised lyrics”), but a big fan of Lionel Bart and Joan Littlewood, whom I met through my much missed friend Victor Spinetti. Their 1959 Stratford East production was legendary but the recent revival was a lotta fun too, ……

  • terence patrick hewett

    And of course there was Bill Sykes:

  • johnny lately

    Great performance from Bullseye though.