Ach, if only protestants could be catholics…

Lindy McDowell argues that the old Northern Irish narrative of protestant privilege is not only wrong and misleading but it also betrays a wilful misreading of the current crisis in Unionist communities.

She points to the inanity of how Unionists are talked about and treated in public discourse:

The shipyard is still used as a stick to beat the Prods. These days it’s employed in the debate about the inequality of educational attainment in unionist working class areas. The line is that since Prods had all those jobs in the shipyard they never had to worry about education.

If I had a pound for every time I have been told by really quite intelligent people who would recoil at the notion they might be in any way sectarian that “Protestants don’t value education” I could open a private school. Don’t people realise how deeply offensive, never mind wrong, this is?

And the disjuncture between working class communities and their political representatives on one hand and,

…where have those traditional defenders of the working class, the trade unions, been in all this? Rightly or wrongly the trade union movement in Northern Ireland is perceived in Protestant areas as being biased in favour of nationalism. Shouldn’t this be an issue for debate? Shouldn’t it all be an issue for debate?

  • serak

    “Protestants would be fine if they would just be… well… not Protestant.”

    Not much distinction there between Protestantism and unionism. Maybe ‘Protestants would be fine if they would just be… well… not unionists’.

  • Mick

    serak:

    Given the minute amount of crossover there has been over the last thirty years, doesn’t that effectively amount to the same thing?

  • cladycowboy

    Mick

    Its dangerous for debate to equate the two. If both are one and the same, then an anti-unionist argument can, and has been equated on slugger to an anti-protestant tirade and hence a sectarian act. Protestants are not born Unionists. Its a political ideology that the greater number of Protestants(today) freely choose to follow.

  • George

    Was waiting for the unionist commentators to try shore up the schism that is slowly opening up between Irish Protestants and unionism/orangeism.

    Irish Protestantism does not equal orangeism.
    Irish Protestantism does not equal unionism.
    The IRA does not equal Ireland.

    Now that many northern Irish Protestants are joining their southern brethren in no longer blindly condoning the actions of the Orange Order and the deriliction of responsibility of unionist politicians, it’s crucial for some to try remind the northern flock that to be Protestant is to be unionist and that deep down Irish people really just want to butcher them in their beds.

    Won’t wash any more I’m afraid as evidenced by the number of Ulster Protestants who are so disillusioned with unionism that they don’t vote any more. But try scare everyone back into line nonetheless.

    100,000 less unionist votes than 20 years ago. Why is that?

    And the imaginary one million Ulster Protestant figure gets an airing again too. Why have a census if nobody looks at the figures?

  • Foggy

    Lindy McDowell wrote:

    “if they only had a proper culture like Gaelic and real music like diddly-dee…”

    “Take the shipyard, eternally thrown up as the great provider of jobs for those jammy, greedy Prods. Might it not have projected a clearer picture of the Protestant experience if, over the years, unionist leaders had spelt out what precisely those jobs entailed? That men worked long, gruelling hours in jobs that gave them a pittance and in all too many tragic cases, asbestosis. How much more advantaged were these workers really than their unemployed counterparts living on benefits?”

    Make of these comments what you will! And ywho is she referring to when she mentions “their unemployed counterparts living on benefits?” ??

  • Mick

    CC:

    Good point. Though it doesn’t follow that the subject has to be religous before it can be understood as sectarian. From dictionary.com:

  • Henry94

    Nor will you solve the problems of Northern Ireland by an approach that involves Protestants giving up (or being forced to give up) the very things that define their community.

    But is marching through nationalist areas without negotiation really what defines their community. Because that’s all they are being asked to give up.

  • Mick

    George:

    “the schism that is slowly opening up between Irish Protestants and unionism/orangeism”.

    That’s an interesting idea. What evidence have you found to support it?

    The Life and Times 2004 survey suggests that any pealing away from traditional politics is bi-communal.

  • Dec

    “And who is she referring to when she mentions “their unemployed counterparts living on benefits?” ??”

    I think the time period in question (1920’s – 1930’s) somewhat predated the Welfare State.

  • joe

    “Nor will you solve the problems of Northern Ireland by an approach that involves Protestants giving up (or being forced to give up) the very things that define their community”.
    What are Protestants being asked or being forced to give up? How is it an erosion of culture to ask a group not to march past areas where they will cause offence? And if this is what defines the “protestant community” (in my opinion it is a section of this community that she refers to in her piece) then this community needs to ask themeselves some serious questions.
    I would also like to note that the violence in question followed an OO parade that was still able to walk past cathloic homes on the Springfield, a fact that it is rarely stated.

  • TAFKABO

    saying that Protestants would be fine if “they would just well, not be unionists” is essentialy arguing that as long as they keep their heads down and don’t dare to have opinions of their own, then they won’t be bothered.

    Sure it worked with all the prods in the 26 counties didn’t it?

  • cladycowboy

    Mick:

    Absolutely not confined to Religion but when i hear ‘sectarianism’ in the NI context i immediately think of religion.
    Also from the dictionary,
    ‘…characterized by bigoted adherence to a factional viewpoint’?

    is it not sectarian if the adherence is merely ‘strong-willed’ rather than ‘bigoted'(who decides what that is)? I think we could all be described as sectarian in at least one aspect of our lives to go by the dictionary definition.

  • Mick

    CC:

    “…we could all be described as sectarian in at least one aspect of our lives to go by the dictionary definition”.

    All the more reason to be careful with it then. 🙂

  • George

    Mick,
    just to clarify one thing: I believe there is growing Protestant alienation with unionism and even more so with Orangeism. Not saying these alienated Protestants are pro-unification, just that they are alienated with the union, and even more with unionism. Catholics might be equally alienated but that doesn’t alter the levels of Protestant alienation.

    Why do I believe this?

    I would say the near 100,000 drop in the number of I assume Protestant votes for unionist parties in the last 20 years is the clearest sign.

    The almost complete willingness by northern Protestants to allow themselves to be ruled by Hain and the NIO rather than having a local assembly even though deep down they no it is only a holding operation and is dragging the region down. Can’t get more alienated than that.

    The now almost totally complete southern Protestant alienation from the Orange Order and its motives is another indication as well as Ulster unionism’s almost total rejection of the concept of Irish unionism as a result. They accept there is no southern fifth column to be mobilised and have given up as a result. Now it’s “simply British” or “Ulster is British”. Who needs dreamy Carsonites in 2005?

    The latest full-scale criticism from all denominations of the behaviour of the Orange Order, “the vanguard of unionist culture”, is another example.

    The split between the OO and the UUP and the ever-growing split with the COI over its anti-Roman Catholic ethos in an ecumenical time. The COI is delivering for its flock and as a result there needs to be more distance from the OO.

    If you ask me the Protestants most vociferously supporting the OO on the streets are the ones seen least often sitting in a pew.

    Many Irish Protestants are moving away from the Orange Order, away from the ruling elite and the old ways of celebrating their religion and culture and with their departure, unionism as an ideology is the poorer for it.

    Sure they may see no place for themselves in the unification parties but in time they will be permanently lost to unionism if nothing is done.

    They will be the ones keeping their heads down among their own in Northern Ireland in the next decade.

    Unionism was a weaker ideology when it cut off southern Protestants and Catholics and it is weaker again now because many northern Protestants have left it.

    While the southern Protestants are lost forever, unionism still has time to rebuild its bridges with the lost northern ones.

    But can it? I don’t think it can stop the slippage unless it can turn into an ideology with 21st century values and objectives.

    But that would be an ideology encompassing more than just Protestants.

  • TAFKABO

    Notice how when republicans are throwing blast bombs at protestants it’s not because they are protestants, it’s cause they are in the orange order.
    Or when they are assassinating protestants it’s not cause they are protestants, it’s cause they are in the police.
    When they’re carrying bombs into the middle of the Shankill road, it’s not cos it is a protestant area.
    When they tried to kill Nigel Dodds it wasn’t cos he was a protestant, it was because he was a Unionist.

    They’re forever explaining different reasons for attacking or despising Protestants, they can live with us knowing that they are prepared to murder us for political reasons, but it would just not do for us to get the wrong idea that they were in any way sectarian.

    And I am absolutely sure that for every attack and killing carried out by republicans against protestants, they have a long explanation justifying it.

    That doesn’t make me feel any better, it just convinces me that they will always be able to come up with another yet reason to kill protestants.

  • 9countyprovience

    “Prodding the socialist conscience” (I like the title)

    “only had a proper culture like Gaelic and real music like diddly-dee…”
    This is what I don’t get. Everyone has been brainwashed into thinking there’s ‘my’ culture and ‘their’ culture. Culture is not something you own. You can personalize it, but you can never own it. Culture is important for creating a national identity, it helps you remember where you’re from, but does not wholly define it. For example, is an Irishman any less of an Irish man if he doesn’t like GAA but watches the premiership. Doesn’t listen to Irish trad but likes Italian operas. As far as I see it, this culture barrier is one of the biggest problems in NI.

    “your community projected to the outside world as the “oppressors”.
    Hmmm, I think the Unionist government of that time and their policies gave that impression, not SF propaganda.
    Failure to fully accept past indiscretions is barrier number 2.

    “..the truth is that the Protestant working class has always faced exactly the same poverty and hardships as their Catholic neighbours. “
    This is very true. Not long after partition, the labour party was a force in NI. The unionist party saw that a coalition between Labour and the Nationalist party a threat to their despotic ideals so schemed to drive a wedge between the Catholic and Protestant working classes. On one of the visits to Wolfe Tones grave in Bodenstown in the 30’s had a group of Protestant working class men under their own banner. But they were attacked by a group of small minded sectarians and that drove the working class Protestants closer to their Unionist overlords. The unionist government also helped the split by having the RUC use extra force on protests in Catholic working class areas. The working class Protestants have been used since as whipping boys of the Unionist community, hence the troubles we’re seeing today.

    “The deprivation of loyalist working class areas has been aggravated by a government so keen on toadying to republican terrorism that it has totally ignored or deliberately neglected that section of the community.”
    The deprivation of loyalist working class areas has been aggravated by their Unioist overlords who don’t give a toss about the working class. If a community doesn’t feel lile they have a voice, and it has a democratically elected politician, then that politician is not listening to the community he represents.

    “Hain may have his work cut out dissuading those rioters from the notion that violence pays…”
    Maybe the anti-Loyalist backlash in Britian will disuade them.

  • Mikey

    This is the most disturbingly bigoted piece of journalism I have seen in a long time.

    As Baroness May Blood once said “there were always jobs” for protestants and this is the primary reason why education was under-valued on the Shankill.

    I notice the author recently wrote that this had been the most successful marching season in recent years, try telling that to Catholics in Agoghill who had to endure drums being struck outside their houses 24/7.

    It’s an insult to everyone’s intelligence to say that an organsiation that kicks out people for marrying (but not for killing) Catholics is cultural.

    How can the Belfast Telegraph claim to be a paper for ALL of northern Ireland when it publishes such tripe?

  • Jacko

    As many of the snippets above demonstrate, this is not one of Lindy’s better efforts.

    As for equating unionism and Protestantism: this, in my view, is dangerous in the extreme.
    Unionist leaders and others continually try to push the ludicrous notion that Protestants here are somehow religiously and morally bound to support the union.
    That is absolute crap and runs completely counter to the idea of individual freedom of choice and expression so bound up with every mainstream strand of Protestantism.
    If someone ever tries to morally or physically force me into voting in any particular way I will deliberately vote in the opposite direction.
    Truth is, after the violence of the past few weeks and the collusion in it of unionist politicians I’m strongly inclined never to vote unionist again, anyway.

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    An ignorant piece of journalism from Ms McDowell. The Orange Order may have a special place in the heart of unionists but it was never far away from being an organisation of thugs masquerading with their bowler hats and sashes as a cultural – and therefore respectable? – organisation.

    I don’t know whether most Protestants hold it in high regard – I hope not as it has consistently led them in the wrong direction since its inception as an Ulster version of the KKK.

    The Irish language, Gaeilge, Gaelic (as L M refers to it) and ‘diddly ee music’ is as much part of Protestant culture as it is Catholic. It’s only that unionist leaders – in a misguided attempt to ape the British – have downplayed the shared heritage. I don’t buy the line from unionists that Irish culture has been hijacked by Sinn Féin – it’s all to convenient. I know thousands of Irish speakers, most of them (in proportions reflective of opinion polls) who don’t support SF. In the north it’s slightly different because the (mis) administration here penalised Irish language speakers etc and that has caused more of them – not all – to have fair and trenchant republican views.

    It’s not about Protestants being more like Catholics, it’s about unionists being more like reasonable people.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Protestants are not born Unionists. Its a political ideology that the greater number of Protestants(today) freely choose to follow.’

    That’s not true, Clawdy.

    In the main, people are unionist/nationalist, Catholic/Protestant because their parents were, and because their parent’s parents were. Hardly freely chosen.

    ‘When they tried to kill Nigel Dodds it wasn’t cos he was a protestant, it was because he was a Unionist.’

    In fairness to SF/IRA they seem to be targeting the SDLP member (name escapes me) because of his position. No, these people are animals because of their antics, not because of their targets.

  • TAFKABO

    “It’s not about Protestants being more like Catholics, it’s about unionists being more like reasonable people.”

    Here’s what I don’t get.

    On the one hand I am being told that it is wrong to equate most protestants with Unionism, and on the other hand the same people telling me this are doing exactly that.

    Is it just wrong when I do it?

  • slackjaw

    From the article:

    One of the glorious things about the Ulster Protestant community is that it is not a homogenous mass.

    Well, if it isn’t some sort of homogenous mass, it isn’t much of a ‘community’ either.

    The ‘Ulster Protestant community’ is a label of convenience that probably misleads more than it informs. But it serves its purpose insofar as it inflames fears and suspicions.

    The interesting thing about it is that it is only ever used in a reactive, conventionally political context i.e. what the ‘Ulster Protestant community’ thinks about a United Ireland, the IRA, the Orange Order, concessions to republicans, dismantlement of watchtowers. No-one would ever think to ask what the ‘Ulster Protestant community’ thinks of Kate Moss snorting coke.

    My next door neighbours back home are Protestant, and they have about as much, if not less, in common with loyalist rioters as I do.

    Yet for the purposes of Lindy McDowell’s article, and for most of the political rhetoric spouted by Unionist politicians of all parties recently, they belong to the same community as loyalist rioters, but not to the same community as their next door neighbours.

  • idunnomeself

    the unionist community are connected by their shared sense of Britishness, and not much else.

    George, there has always been a large chunk of such people who didn’t like the OO, and the Drumcree carry on reinforced that.

    But to hope that because the ‘unionist community’ has lots of views on lots of different things that some of them might change their mind on what their national identity is is a lot of steps too far.

    I think Lindy has hit the nail on the head about this education thing. Most Protestants are totally obsessed with the value of education. That’s why their fighting for the grammar schools. It’s tied into the cult of respectability. Talk to a Protestant parent whose kids are 8 or 9 and then come back and tell me they don’t value education.

    And anyone can go and look up the lay offs in the shipyards in the 30’s. Easy jobs for loyal subjects is too simple a narrative.

    OC- nice to see you getting the thread back to Irish again! still waiting for you to say thanks for these millions for Irish language broadcasting ;o)

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”But is marching through nationalist areas without negotiation really what defines their community. Because that’s all they are being asked to give up.”

    That and any notion of identifying with Britain.
    We even had SF bleating about a British brass band playing in Botanic Gardens for chuffs sake!

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    OC- nice to see you getting the thread back to Irish again! still waiting for you to say thanks for these millions for Irish language broadcasting ;o)

    The thing is I don’t think the British overstretched themselves in allocating £12m over five years (it was over 3 but then they cut it even before it was established and up and running) when in Scotland and Wales, Gaelic and Welsh tv get a way more. (S4C gets £30m from the British exchequer plus programming worth approximately £80m per year from the BBC).

    So I think the British contribution to NI has been parsimonious to say the least and points up the grossly unequal way it treats Irish in comparison to other “British” languages.

  • DK

    Mick,

    if George needs evidence that of the schism opening between protestants and unionism, then I can offer myself.

    I would not consider voting for a unionist party again. There are lots of reasons for this, not all of them in disgust at the ongoing moral collapse of the unionist leadership and OO.

    That is not to say that I would jump over to nationalsim. SF have a long way to go in my mind to make up for their vicious sectarian war against my community, (the protestant community). They also display no interest in honestly engaging with us in a spirit of persuasion to a better place, They are currently into demonisation and isolation of the protestant community.

    In time things may change and nationalism may drop the hatreds and swing back to the SDLP. I am opening to persuasion through them.

    By the way. I am an ex PUP member.

  • TAFKABO

    DK.

    I’m also an ex PUP member,and apart from a brief spell when I voted for them I have never voted for any Unionist party.
    I’ve never understood why I needed to vote for them in order to be considered a unionist.

  • GavBelfast

    Oh for a genuine opportunity to be simply Northern Irish/British and vote for a proper party.

    These terms “Unionist” and “Loyalist” in themselves practically distinguish this as a place apart.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”100,000 less unionist votes than 20 years ago. Why is that?”

    Come the next election it could well be 100,001.
    The recent spectacle of big Ian and Reg up in arms over yet another OO storm in a teacup is a surefire way of turning the moderate unionist electorate right off.
    Is it too much to ask to have a party who wants to retain the link with Britain, recognise that there are two NI traditions and that the real enemy of all democrats on both parts of the island is SF?
    The sight of the two unionist parties fiddling while NI burns is a deeply depressing one, particularly when they should be selling the benefits of UK membership to nationalists rather than screaming about marches. They’re doing just as good a job at selling NI to SDLP voters as SF are doing at selling a UI to moderate unionists.
    The ultimate irony is that SF have done a magnificent job of damaging the UI cause, while the unionist parties have ensured that nationalists can never ‘love ulster.’
    Virtually all the protestant/ unionist people I know simply don’t vote any more — they fail to identify with the throwback bigotry of the DUP or the Trimble/UU concessions debacle.
    This sizeable slide in unionist voters should however not be construed as a UI opportunity. Come the day of the border poll, they’ll be out voting in force. And you can be damn sure which box they’ll be putting their x in.

  • Butterknife

    In the bygone days when i was sitting my A-level in UK government and politics i was told that a loyalist put religion before the union wheras a unionist put the union before his faith. Therefore a catholic may be a unionist but not a loyalist. Of course this is specific to our province. Similiar can be said for Republican and Nationalist.

  • DK

    TAFKABO,

    we have a similar history where it comes to voting.

    You don’t have to vote for a Unionist party to be considered a unionist. A party has to meet your minimum requirements in terms of policy and vision to be worthy of your vote. For me, the UUP and DUP have never cleared the hurdle. At the time of the loyalist ceasefire’s the PUP did articulate a more dare I say “Progressive” unionism, despite the dubious connections. Hence my willingness to help try to further that approach.

    All history now.

    For me, the whole nationalism/unionism debate has little real meaning. I think it obscures important things in life and ultimately deminishes us.

  • curious

    DK said @ 4.03pm:

    “For me, the whole nationalism/unionism debate has little real meaning. I think it obscures important things in life and ultimately deminishes [sic] us.”

    I couldn’t agree more. We’re here for a good time not a long time. Life’s far too short

  • Just one voice

    Lindy

    You talk of a crisis in the protestant/loyalist/Unionist communities. I beg to differ. Is it not that the case that the protestant/loyalist communities are essentially bricking it.

    The hard reality is that catholics/nationalists/republicans have seen the big picture for a long time and invested wisely in programming their children to reach for educational attainment and organising themselves.

    The truth is the catholic/nationalist community doesn’t have to think too hard as to who they are, what they want, and how they are going to get it. They know through experience that you have to walk through the dark valleys in order to appreciate the glories of the highest mountain.

    I understand that there must be a certain amount of worry that things aren’t as they use to be or should be for the Loyalist Community. But I argue the sense of community is fractured, religion plays little or no part and often takes too many forms, politicians can’t decide what they want and to top it all the very nation they want to remain with don’t want them. More a crisis of indentity rather than anything else.

    The rioting, attacks on pregnant women and nurses, blocking roads, attacks on the police and catholic churches and political/religious leaders incapable of condeming violence is giving a definate perception to a world looking in. And in an age were perception is reality – There’s nothing worse than a sploit child!

  • smcgiff

    It’s a sure sign that Davros has departed the scene, I’m sure he would have pointed out the error in the thread title – Protestant’s are Catholics!

  • looking in

    Prods would be OK … if they only had a proper culture like Gaelic and real music like diddly-dee…

    Whatever the female equivelent of a tube is then I dare to suggest that this is the type of person who’d make such a comment

    unless these prods happen to be a new schism more divorced from their cousins in scotland then this is tacit bollox

    Lindy, excepting a few places such as Barra the vasy majority of west highland and island scots are prods, some even more wee free that Big Ian’s frees – they ALL have not a problem with Gaelic and didlee dee, itn is their culture – it seems to me that it is only the culturally stunted (bigoted perhaps?) NI prods who have a problem with gaelic and associated music.

  • Dandyman

    As regards any ‘link’ between Protestantism & loyalty to the Crown/Union – Anyone who’s watching the current documentary series ‘Monarchy’ on C4 will have seen in Monday night’s episode that up until the reign of King Henry VIII, England was an overwhelmingly Catholic country. Indeed Henry himself was a fervently devout Catholic until he fell out with the then Pope and often defended the Pope’s – Rome’s – infallibility in word and in print, and the only reason this changed was because Henry VIII was a bigamist, a despot a tyrant and a vain, wannabe 16th century celebrity dickhead who was desperate to spawn a male heir but lacked the juice for the job, so he divorced/imprisoned/executed his way through wives until he eventually found a woman capable of conceiving one and that probably wasn’t even his.

  • Jacko

    Dandyman

    And your potted and obviously unbiased historical account is to highlight which particular point exactly?
    That because Henry VIII turned his coat ever since then Prods have felt bound by loyalty to the Crown and therefore the union?
    Doesn’t seemed to have worked with Judge Catherine McGuinness, Martin Mansergh, Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken and scores of Scottish, English and Welsh republicans. Not to mention the Protestant anti-royalist Founding Fathers of the USA and similar-minded Prods throughout many other parts of the world.
    Martin Luther did have something to do with Protestantism as well, of course.
    And there were many clergy and bishops in England secretly sympathetic to Martin Luther before the obvious boost they got by Henry climbing on board – in both senses of that term.
    But all that shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of your pet theory, now should it.
    Talk about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Don’t people realise how deeply offensive, never mind wrong, this is?’

    Pity she wasn’t sensitive enough to realise her opening paragraphs were not only insensitive, but portrayed nationalists as nothing less than monsters.

    It’s all the more tragic that she does make some good points about the poor in general, and loyalists in particular being let down – but it’s just lost in her tirade of hatred for non-Protestants.

  • irishman

    More MOPEry from McDowell who is fast becoming the leading whinger amongst the unionist media class.

    Her weekly columns read like a corner boy rant- there is little of value in her contributions, except to confirm that unionism is in a state of denial, chasing its tail whilst barking at the world around it.

  • aquifer

    Protestants have crap leaders, accustomed to trying to spread panic and street muscle to maintain group solidarity, and sharing the race memory of a state that in event of conflict would likely weigh in against the catholics. It just isn’t happening for them. And won’t in a Union with the UK.

    They should learn from the Provos, who knew their limits and the constraints of wider public opinion. They knew a widespread sectarian campaign would be closed down by the governments, so they picked off ‘legitimate’ targets (who were mostly protestant), and pretended the English were the problem until that one wore thin.

    That the Provos fought a futile war unwinnable in their own republican terms is their disgrace, not something to be copied in Unionist failure to identify and pursue achievable goals for themselves.

    Protestant betrayal is just political ineptitude writ large.

  • ham

    Jim Rogers east Belfast ulster unionist councillor today labelled the police ‘scum’

    No mention of the loyalist drug gangs however.

  • Patrick Brown

    It’s been said quite a lot recently that loyalists are looking at all the “concessions” supposedly going to the IRA, concluding that “violence works”, and deciding to put this brainwave into practice. You’d think, listening to them, that the IRA were the only people who’ve ever used violence in this country, and the poor wee loyalists have for decades been desperately trying to achieve their aims by exclusively peaceful means, and are only now ruefully concluding they’ve reached the limit of what can be achieved by that approach!

    I’m a protestant, and I’m sick to my teeth of the unionist mainstream’s wilful blind-spot about loyalist violence.

    I’m also sick of fear-mongering politicians feeding people the line that there’s been an endless stream of concessions to the IRA with no reciprocation. The IRA have made concessions – they’ve accepted partition and the unionist veto. They have, eventually if grudgingly, accepted the need to disarm and stand down, even though the loyalists remain defiantly armed, active and pretty much tolerated. There’s a long way to go, but the IRA are on a path to, hopefully, gradually conceding themselves out of existence. Some concessions have been made to them to secure that, but most of them are cosmetic and those that aren’t, like prisoner releases, have also been made to loyalists, who have given up fuck all.

  • Patrick Brown

    I should point out that “loyalists” in the last sentence of my last post should really say “loyalist paramilitaries”. My first correction and explanation seems to have been deleted.

  • P Ring

    Labels- political, cultural or religious- as many bloggers have pointed out are devisive and often misleadingly inaccurate. I for instance am not a nationalist, republican or a catholic. I do however believe that ‘Northern Ireland’ and Ireland would in the long term be better off without the partition of such a small island.

    A 32 county entity- without coat-trailing symbolism and demonstrations of what have been described as traditonal loyalties- is the only sane and rational longterm objective.

  • michael

    ok, im not gonna read the posts above yet! im so angered at that nonsense!

    -point one-
    the orange order is a sectarian organisation! ‘no catholics allowed’ and all. Get rid of that rule and people like me (moderate, liberal and nationalist) can give it legitimacy. Not now, and never until that has happened.

    -point two-
    is she seriously trying to tell us that the catholic community were (and i stress ‘were’) not second-class citizens??

    -point three-
    H&W shipyards! was a sectarian hole! as little as 25 years ago. Mt uncle worked there for like two months, then they found out he was a catholic. As soon as he arrived his boss tipped him off that they knew his nasty secret and drove him home so as to protect him from the murderous crowd.

    -point three-
    as stats released this week show, poverty in BOTH communities is the same! So despite the fact that i will never vote for Gerry Adams, her suggestion that he shouldn’t tackle issues such as poverty is ridiculous!

  • Mick Fealty

    PB and Michael,

    You both may have had snippets deleted for ad hominem attacks. This is at the discretion of the moderators. The site rule is play the ball and not the man.

  • DK

    Michael,

    generally agree with your points. The issue about the OO appears confused. The OO is a body that celebrates and promotes the reformed faith, (protestant faith). By definition it must be sectarian, as must the catholic church or any other organisation that promotes a particular belief.

    I guess catholics are free to join if they celebrate and promote the reformed case, in which case they wouldn’t be catholic’s. It’s a bit like asking Unionists to vote for a UI, and therefore not be Unionists.

    By the way, I’m not defending the OO. Just pointing out the logic of the catholic rule.

  • Cui bono?

    There’s very little that I’d agree with in Lindy’s article. In fact I’m a bit incensed. In particular, her comment regarding working-class unionist perception of the TU movement as nationalist is a howler Just not true. I act for TU’s and their members – from all sides of the community and none – in court everyday, and I know for a fact that the the TU’s have been a thin red line of working class solidarity across the community in the worst of times. On this score, Lindy’s piece is more unhelpful, baseless, and badly timed shame-mongering. Her comment has the effect (whether intended or not) of devaluing, at a stroke, the efforts of a great many fantastic TU officials from the perceived pro-union side of the community (who, to be honest tend to be too worried fighting to keep the bread on their members’ tables to get into sectarian yapping).

    In general, it’s an extraordinarily self-indulgent piece of navel-gazing journalism, but then the BT is a reprehensibly small minded and arrogant newspaper. After all, people only buy it for the classifieds and the jobs. The columns are just so much fill.

    Having said that, I’ve previously remarked here that the past few weeks have shown in stark relief that the unionist middle class needs to get off the golf course (and out of Nick’s Warehouse, Lindy) and get into serious internal debate about where it’s going and whether it’s actually prepared to provide something passing for leadership. If articles like this are the first rumblings in such a process, then there may be some merit to the fact of the article, if not the content.

  • stu

    This is the first time I’ve been sufficiently motivated to leave a comment here- just curious if anybody else notices the irony of this thread. Lindy Gilby writes about how Protestants/Unionists/Loyalists have been demonized… and people do just that. (OC – “It’s not about Protestants being more like Catholics, it’s about unionists being more like reasonable people.”). Notice how no one took Pol O Muiri to task for calling East Belfast a wasteland the other day, but as soon as LM (how cack-handedly) suggests that perhaps Prods had it bad too, you have to duck to avoid the crossfire. To address some of your collective points:

    *Disclaimer – nothing is aimed personally at anyone, I’m merely responding to questions by poster.*

    George –

    The majority of Northern Irish Protestants *do* condemn the actions of the OO. Do you think we’re really proud watching people supposedly represent our community hurling bricks at cops? We just don’t have a voice, as TAFKABO et al pointed out. In fact, Gav probably voiced it best; most of us wish we could vote for real parties like they do on the mainland or in the Republic (paraphrased, I know). As for ‘But that would be an ideology encompassing more than just Protestants[,]’ it already is. You’re right when you say that there has been a schism, an undermining, but it’s for mostly the reasons 9county mentioned, and the sense of alienation. There is a strong, silent majority on this side of town that is never going to vote UUP/DUP again; the one thing unionism had going for it was the lack of a direct paramilitary link (DUP/UVF? Doesn’t have the same ring) and now, with their Pontius Pilating and calling the PSNI scum, they’ve revealed their true colours. Has anybody investigated the possibility of getting Paisley arrested for inciting religious hatred?

    Mikey-

    LM is a columnist, writing an opinion piece. Refer to my opening paragraph – if it’s alright for Pol O Muiri to call a quarter of a city a wasteland, it’s alright for LM to voice her opinions, whatever they may be. The Telegraph couldn’t withhold this piece, it’s not an editorial, it’s not presented as news. Or do you only believe in freedom of speech when it’s something you agree with?

    OC-

    “So I think the British contribution to NI has been parsimonious to say the least and points up the grossly unequal way it treats Irish in comparison to other “British” languages.” That’s an interesting point, “British” languages, being funded by the British Broadcasting Corporation. And Gaelige, a language that, here anyway, is identified primarily from the non-British side of the community. You’re right; £12million of British licence-payer’s money being spent on the promotion of a language that is felt as non-British just isn’t enough.

    I would reply to Just one voice, but Gav, TAFKABO and Gerry lvs Castro have accurately stated the case enough as it is.

    Again, to disclaim. I’m not pointing fingers or stirring here. If something catches my attention I’ll respond in what I hope to be a mature, reasonable fashion. It’s very early in the morning so apologies if I’m not as coherent as I should be.

  • stu

    apologies for the spacing in my last; breaks didn’t seem to turn up in the preview.

  • maca

    Stu
    On the language issue. Irish is native to NI also, NI is British therefore the Irish language can be considered a British language in the same way as Scottish Gaelic for example. And remember, the British licence-payer’s money you refer to, some of that is being paid for by Irish language speakers/supporters.

  • mikey

    Stu
    Pol O Muiri’s article was a pretty lazy piece of journalism too. If he thinks west belfast is home to the “risen people” he obviously doesnt live in an area where there is an on-going suicide epedemic.
    East Belfast has fewer of its residents living in poverty than the west but certainly the activities of loyalist infighters and an ageing population do make it appear to be in a state of decline.
    The problem is that people who suffer deprivation in loyalist communities are ill-served by people like Lindy indulge in baseless mopery.
    In recent months I have read a few of Lindy’s articles
    (do they publish them in the North West edition of the tele as well?) and
    she constantly tries to argue failed one sided arguements such as
    “unionists were like a beaten wife” during the 30 years of the trouble.
    Her latest chestnut that “prods were as poor as them kaffliks” is inaccurate.
    The protestant working class will only be liberated by proper leadership,
    not by an attempt to get them to support the bigots in the orange order.
    Just because Catholics are twice as likely to be unemployed doesnt make it any easier for an unemployed protestant. Deprivation in both
    communities is unacceptable. It certainly wont be tackled by people like Lindy who seem to think that Ulster would be wonderful if we could turn the clock back 40 years!

  • Scotsman

    “”The thing is I don’t think the British overstretched themselves in allocating £12m over five years (it was over 3 but then they cut it even before it was established and up and running) when in Scotland and Wales, Gaelic and Welsh tv get a way more. (S4C gets £30m from the British exchequer plus programming worth approximately £80m per year from the BBC).””

    I would have thought these things would be decided by the number of native speakers (there are a lot more full-time Welsh speakers than Irish), plus the size of the broadcast area, plus the political will in each administration.

    On Irish, I would have thought the UK government would come to some financial arrangement with RTE to ensure all-island broadcasting of the Irish language channel (TV3?)
    Digital TV will hopefully bring this about.

  • The future is yours

    Well, judging by the comments from the unionist side of the house here, you all seem to know what you want, is there anyone amongst you who can articulate it? You got rid of Trimble, the DUP is doing what everyone knew the DUP would, Empey is a holding place, the smaller parties are good enough as gone; so what are you doing about it? Will you let the UUP flounder until it too whimpers goodbye? It appears that there is a clear vision out there waiting to be implemented/embodied. Perhaps you had to get to this point in order to see it?

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s good to see that a few of the posters have chosen to discuss the substance of Lindy’s piece.

    On the role of trade unions, we’ve had a strong defence of their role and performance across the board, although original point was related to the profile of the Trade Union movement within the Unionist communities. These might be different things, and teasing out that difference might be an interesting line of discussion.

    It also seems worth highlighting the idea that protestant communities are structured in a profoundly different way from the more communitarian catholic model. It relies more on civic rather than community values. Also the idea that protestants see great value in education, and that it becomes an engine for social mobility – and facilitates a move away from working class areas for those who can.

    How do others feel about Stu’s point that much of the response here merely confirms Lindy’s view that too many people just wish that the Protestant/Unionist viewpoint would just go way, than deal with it directly?

  • Dandyman

    Jacko

    I don’t recall posting a theory mate, i was just drawing attention to a pretty widely-known historical fact, one that was broadcast on British TV to a couple of million viewers last monday night. I actually find British history quite interesting, that’s why I was watching the programme in the first place. I also find interesting the idea that (perhaps) without Henry VIII’s shenanigan’s, there may well have been no English Civil war, no Battle of the Boyne, and possibly no Orange Order.

    But then again, as Dennis Hopper says in Apocalypse Now, ‘IF is the middle word in LIFE’.

  • Dandyman

    Shite…now look what you’ve all made me do! I knew it would happen.

    ‘Shenanigan’s’ – should be shenanigans.

    Apostrophes are NOT, repeat NOT, used to denote plurality!!!

    They are possessive, as in:

    Brians Book’s – 0/10

    Brian’s Books – 10/10

    Get it right Folks

  • looking in

    How do others feel about Stu’s point that much of the response here merely confirms Lindy’s view that too many people just wish that the Protestant/Unionist viewpoint would just go way, than deal with it directly?

    On the whole language issue, unfortunately the Protestant/Unionist viewpoint, by and large, seems incapable of addressing their hostility to gaelic (i’ll use the spelling I’m familiar with). Intellectually they just can’t get past their own inconsistent approach vis-a-viz piecemeal picking of some trappings of west highland gaeldom and their almost pathlogical fear of irish and being the language of threat/republicanism. When prod scottish gaels like myself can happily share/enjoy/appreciate the two.

    Until they can satisfactorily address this point columnists like Mcdowell ought to stay of the topic. Go away even.

    So, OK I’m saying they ought to go away – but often that is best – sometimes you need to do the (home)work before coming to class – otherwise the remedial education can sound a bit patronising to those who have kept up with/or know the issue.

  • susan

    Mick
    “In particular, her comment regarding working-class unionist perception of the TU movement as nationalist is a howler Just not true.I act for TU’s and their members – from all sides of the community and none – in court everyday, and I know for a fact that the the TU’s have been a thin red line of working class solidarity across the community in the worst of times”
    Cui bono

    I agree that during the recent troubles trade unions have campaigned vigorously during the ‘troubles’ against sectarianism and the need to tackle racism and many protestants who are disenchanted with the political process have become involved with trade unions.

    But this was not always the case.

    I can only speak from my own and my father’s experience as protestant working class.

    My grandfather worked in the shipyard and my father in the National union of seamen. Trade unions were ineffective in fighting sectarianism or tackling the appalling working conditions in the shipyard. My father’s view as a lifelong socialist was that the unions and the men of the shipyard had allowed the owners to use sectarianism as a means of control. The owners and the shipyard focussed on keeping ‘jobs for the boys’ and not on tackling low wages and the high death rate from industrial accidents.
    Northern Ireland’s pay rates are historically lower than those ‘across the water’ and still are when comparing equivalent posts. Lower housing costs cannot completely account for this because other living costs such as fuel and food are higher.
    Working class protestants have focussed on getting out of poverty through education and not on improving conditions within their own communities or seeking solidarity with catholic communities in the same conditions as themselves.
    Once protestants leave those communities they don’t look back.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Get it right Folks’

    The butcher’s apostrophe, eh. My own personal nemeses.

  • George

    It all comes back to Lindy trying to equate unionism with Protestantism to try and defend it
    from attack.

    It is also an cheap attempt to put across unionism as the protector of and resevoir of Irish Protestant culture, which it most certainly isn’t. That is insulting to Irish Protestantism but Lindy is more concerned about protecting unionism than Protestantism.

    It’s easy and healthy to attack political ideologies but when commentators start using religion to protect the ideology from attack then the waters just get muddied.

    Lindy should defend unionism rather than sticking “Protestant” in the firing line hoping the critics won’t open fire.

    The defeat of unionism as a political ideology on this island wouldn’t mean the defeat of the Irish Protestant, regardless of what Lindy writes.

    You can’t and shouldn’t write off Ulster Protestants but you can poo poo unionism. It’s healthy and is called politics.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Lindy should defend unionism rather than sticking “Protestant” in the firing line hoping the critics won’t open fire.’

    Cracking good line George! 🙂

  • Cui bono?

    Mick

    LM’s article mentions the unionist perception of the TU movement; I do challenge her on that. Until convinced otherwise, I simply don’t accpet her remark, nor the throwaway manner in which it was made. I sought simply to say that her perception of the perception (as it were) bears no similarity with reality. As always in NI the two remain locked in mortal combat.

    Susan

    I accept what you say wholly; but think about your context:

    “My grandfather worked in the shipyard and my father in the National union of seamen. Trade unions were ineffective in fighting sectarianism or tackling the appalling working conditions in the shipyard. My father’s view as a lifelong socialist was that the unions and the men of the shipyard had allowed the owners to use sectarianism as a means of control. The owners and the shipyard focussed on keeping ‘jobs for the boys’ and not on tackling low wages and the high death rate from industrial accidents.”

    There can be little doubt that a generation and more ago many in the leadership of the TU movement nationally and internationally did little to enamour themselves to the population at large.

    The wonderful side-effect of Thatcher’s putsch against the Unions in the 80s has been the emergence of a leaner, tighter and more effective union movement so that old resentment about sweetheart unions and ineffective leadership are exactly that – outdated.

    We’ve also seen the development and growth of much-welcomed regulation in the past 15 years designed to guarantee the safety and security of employees at work. Alot of it would be impossible to implement and enforce without our TU’s.

    Of course, as with any organisation or institution in NI the TU’s have their share of venal opportunists I am sure. But what isn’t sexy news locally is the hard work done every day by skilful and dedicated TU reps who remain steadfastly loyal to their roots – many in East Belfast, exhausting themselves to keep our last bastions of industry here and breathing for as long as possible. It would be most harsh to suggest that there is a tendency to “I’m-alright-jackery” on the part of socially conscious working class protestants who’ve taken a role in the TU movement.

  • susan

    Cui bono
    I would make no criticism of working class protestants within the trade union movement. As you say the current trade union movement is a very different movement to that of a few generations ago. As someone who lives and works in East Belfast I have benefited from the hard work carried out on my behalf by the trade unions.

    I would criticise the “I’m alright jackery” amongst middle class protestants whose working class parents struggled to educate their children into the middle class. They don’t vote or if they do vote it is without thinking and the limit of their social conciousness is putting a pound in the collecting tin of a charity in the street or going to church. They then proceed to complain about the underclass that disrupts their drive to work or to the shops by rioting.
    I don’t agree with rioting but I have very little sympathy with middle class protestants who vote unionist or don’t vote at all and then complain about the society they live in.

  • thanking you

    Susan, your posts are a breath of fresh air around here.

  • irishman

    I note that, unlike your lead in to Feeney’s thread, you refrain from adding any criticisms of McDowell’s piece, Mick. Can we take it that you concur wholly with the substance of her article, and is this why you are so eager to explore Stu’s comments?

  • Biffo

    “Lindy McDowell argues that the old Northern Irish narrative of protestant privilege is not only wrong and misleading..”

    Protestants “..worked long, gruelling hours in jobs that gave them a pittance and in all too many tragic cases, asbestosis. How much more advantaged were these workers really than their unemployed counterparts living on benefits?”

    Lindy’s problem is she prefers that other wrong and misleading old Northern Irish narrative of the hard working protestants doing a tough and honest days work and the lazy fenians breeding like rabbits at the expense of the social security.

    The reason the population breakdown remained constant for most of the years after the setting up of the NI state despite the 40% higher catholic birthrate was because the lazy fenians (like my family) got off their arses and went abroad looking to work.

    Conveniently, the contribution to the world by thousands of working class Ulster catholics can be easily ignored by Lindy for the purpose of repeating old-fashioned sectarian stereotypes in this article and engaging in MOPE whinging.

    She’s been at it as long as I can remember.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Ach… I thought the whole point of the partition was that Protestants wouldn’t have to run the risk of being treated like Catholics…

  • Cui bono?

    Susan

    Your 3.24pm:

    Amen!

  • scipio

    It seems everyone agrees – almost a first on Slugger (at least where NI politics intrude) – Lindy sorry to say that all shades of opinion find your article fatuous, ill informed and lacking in reasoned argument either from a Unionist or Nationalist perspective.

    The amazing thing is that unlike most of us some eejit actually pays you to write such drivel!

  • alyn

    good post

    scipio, couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • Denny Boy

    “The butcher’s apostrophe, eh. My own personal nemeses.”

    The misspelling of foreign deities’ names. Mine.

    Forgive me, smcgiff. Just a little bit of harmless mischief before bed :0)

    G’Nytol

  • Reader

    smgiff: The butcher’s apostrophe, eh. My own personal nemeses.

    It’s normally referred to as the grocer’s apostrophe. And I have a theory… It all started innocently enough with cauli’s, then the rot set in – carrot’s, cabbage’s.

  • smcgiff

    ‘grocer’s apostrophe.’

    Damn! That’s what I meant! D’oh!

  • WILLIE

    I DONT THINK LINDY WILL WORRY ABOUT NEGATIVE COMMENTS –

    [But Slugger cares about playing the ball – edited Moderator]