Why (or rather how) Alec Reid was right…

Jude Collins is one of the few commentators to put a cogent argument in favour of Alec Reid’s comparison between Nazis and Unionists. He argues that though there was no literal truth in the accusation, the analogy still holds to some limited degree. He also accuses Unionist politicians of political artifice in their emotional responses to the issue.

Adds: Thanks to reader James, see this Terrance O’Neill quote (subs needed) from today’s Irish Times:

“To those of us who remember the Thirties, the pattern is horribly familiar. The contempt for established authority, the crude and unthinking intolerance, the emphasis upon monster processions and rallies, the appeal to a perverted from of patriotism. Each and every one of those things has its parallel in the rise of the Nazis to power. A minority movement was able in the end to work its will simply because most people were too apathetic or too intimidated to speak out. History must not be allowed to repeat itself.”

Terrance O’Neill speaking about Paisley in 1969.

  • harry flashman

    I’ve stated elsewhere that Fr Reid’s ouburst was ridiculous, but the man has had the decency to retract it and apologised and there the matter should rest were it not for the fact that many nationalists have emerged to say that there was actually a grain of truth in his comments.

    Unionists ran a small insular community between 1921 and 1972, during that time the mutual prejudices and mistrust manifested it self in several distinctly petty ways. These usually revolved around local government services, who got the council house, who drove the school bus etc. Fundamentally and in the scale of what was happening elsewhere in the world at that time it was laughably minor.

    After a couple of years peaceful protesting in the mid 1960s and as a result of rough, inept policing of these protests all the grievances were remedied by 1969, November of that year to be precise. All subsequent nationalist grievances came as a direct result of the campaigns of violence waged by loyalist and republican terrorists. Now it undermines all basic tenets of discursive analysis to compare this to A) Nazi Germany B) Apartheid South Africa C) Jim Crow Missisippi D) All of the above.

    However the controversy has got me thinking, why is the use of the Nazi analogy the only taboo? Earlier this year Amnesty International described Guantanamo Bay detention centre as the “gulag of our time” and all the pointy heads nodded sagely in agreement, despite the relative death tolls being; Guantanamo 0, Gulags upwards of 10 000 000. I’m currently watching a BBC interview with a member of the Indian communist party and behind interviewer and interviewee are great big hammer and sickle signs, would the BBC even interview a neo Nazi and would they allow a swastika flag to be placed behind their interviewer? Even to ask the question is to see how absurd it is.

    Why is it that the ideology that murdered (and continues to murder in Cuba and North Korea) over one hundred million people worldwide is never given the same rough ride as the Nazis did?

  • joc

    Harry,

    Excellent viewpoint and one that Kevin Myers wrote about a few weeks ago in the Irish Times.

    The simple fact is that most of the MSM is too closely tied to the left and much prefers a Nazi bogeyman, rather than pointing the finger at the Stalin regime for example.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”when confronted with articulate nationalism saying things they cannot bear to hear.”

    I’m surprised that Jude seems to think that Father Reid’s outburst was ‘articulate nationalism’, since:

    1. It was claimed to have been said in a fit of temper.
    2. It was later totally retracted.
    3. It was further stated that nationalists would have done exactly the same thing.

    As stated by Harry above, the petty and in many ways disgusting actions of successive stormont govts was reprehensible, but to compare them in any way to nazism would be laughable if it weren’t such a blatant attempt to demonise an entire community.
    Father Reid’s further hole-digging comments regarding the honourable men of the IRA and their innocence of the Northern bank robbery marks him as not only a Sinn Fein apologist but a fully paid-up member. He’ll be lecturing us on securocrats and moving the process forward next.

  • jaffa

    Have you no work to do Harry? Watching telly on a Tuesday morning.

    Perhaps the answer is that Stalin’s rather brutal forced ranking was intended to better society through the elimination of undesirable non-fitter-ins whereas Naziisms annihilation of Jews, Gypsies, disabled, liberals, communists, unitarians, slavs was intended to…er…um…

    on the article at least Collins is trying to move the discussion onto something potentially useful -ie not a reclassification of the degree of past discrimination but the development of some sort of pattern for mutual recognition and, perhaps one day, respect. I’m not sure that saying Fr Reid was part right is the best link though.

  • harry flashman

    It’s 5.30pm here where I am Jaffa, but you’re right I have no work to do, just waiting for the Adzhan to sound so the flippin Ramadhan fasting can end for today and I can get well and truly pissed!

    I was watching BBC World, just imagine the normal BBC news written by the Guardian editors and multiply it by ten to get the picture, oh and your TV poll tax is paying for it all.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”Perhaps the answer is that Stalin’s rather brutal forced ranking was intended to better society through the elimination of undesirable non-fitter-ins whereas Naziisms annihilation of Jews, Gypsies, disabled, liberals, communists, unitarians, slavs was intended to…er…um…”

    ‘RATHER BRUTAL’ — priceless!!!!!

  • IJP

    The basic problem that Mr Collins fails to address though is that, by making the analogy, it then becomes a game of mutual recrimination. There may indeed be a grain of truth that certain Unionists/Loyalists are basically ‘supremacist’, as were the Nazis. But this ‘conveniently’ forgets two big points:
    – an equally cogent case can be made linking Irish Republicans to Nazis; and
    – not all Unionists are the same.

    By making arguments like this, therefore, all Collins does is invite a confrontational reponse.

    My point is basically that for a Protestant of the broadly British tradition to make a parallel between certain types of Unionism/Loyalism and the Nazis may be vaguely acceptable provided the link is rationally made; likewise for a Catholic of the broadly Irish-Gaelic tradition to make a parallel between certain types of militant Republicanism and the Nazis may also be vaguely acceptable.

    But to attack the ‘other side’ in this way merely invites recrimination. And in this case to an extent rightly so, because this was not in fact ‘articulate Nationalism’, but rather a bigoted outburst, pure and simple – as was the Unionist response.

    Harry – well said.

  • an seabhac siulach

    Harry Flashman

    *Unionists ran a small insular community between 1921 and 1972, during that time the mutual prejudices and mistrust manifested it self in several distinctly petty ways. These usually revolved around local government services, who got the council house, who drove the school bus etc.*

    That is the typical revisionist nonsense that we have come to expect from unionists…no chance of an honest or realistic reinterpretation of your ‘glorious’ recent history anytime soon, lads? Suppose not, honest reappraisal is not really your think, kneejerk reactions to a priest’s comments, that more your style. All of this is a red herring anyway to distract attenntion away from the IRA’s decommisioning, to take the pressure off the DUP and to distract attention away from the nazi-like (oops!) persecution of the catholic population in Ahoghill and other places (but then we don’t talk about that or the police forces apparent inability to catch anyone involved in these attacks…wonder why that would be?)

    So, the prejudice and discrimination in the six counties was petty…what a laugh…painful to think you can believe this. Tell this to the many generations of people who could not find work or a house or even vote in catholic areas. Oh, sorry those would be minor details, not discrimination on grounds of race or religion, no, no…nothing like the way the nazis considered others to be untermenschen…
    Can you even begin to see the connection or begin to think that all was not rosy in the six counties between the years 1920-1972? (I mean, there have been endless studies done to show that there WAS such discrimination, to deny it, is, well, like denying the holocaust).
    You call it petty that othes lived without jobs or votes or protection from their own police force? Well, I suppose the Afrikaners were also just denying the blacks in South Africa some petty things also, like voting rights, jobs, etc. Was the repression of the police between 1920-1972 also petty? When they were willing to cause riots initiated by Mr. Paisley to remove tricolours from windows, etc. Such evenhandedness.
    Oh but then, according to you, all this was solved in November 1969, ah well, that would explain the continuing disparity in employment levels between the two communities ever since. Do you not think, anyway, that the explosion of violence in ’69 might be connected in a teensy little way with the way catholics had been treated for 50 years and a reflection of some deep rooted anger at that? No, suppose not, because that would take an honest assesment of what had been going on in the six counties. Lose the blinkers boys…
    Until you unionists cop on and wake up to the bitter poisonous sickness of sectarianism that was and is (Ahoghill, Harryville, etc., etc.) present in your society there is little chance of a solution to the problems present in the six counties.

  • Michael Turley

    There seem to be two forms of Unionist responses to the Nationalist case that there existed significant discrimination against Catholics under the Stormont regime.

    One, is that there was no discrimination or, if there was, it was a class and not a sectarian based phenomenon.

    The other, propagated by perhaps more serious minded Unionists, is that there was a small amount of discrimination to which the Nationalist response was disproportionate.

    Both articulated perceptions seem to be formulated as a repudiation of Nationalist claims.

  • Brian Boru

    Some of the language of political Unionism has historically resembled that of the Nazis towards the Jews e.g. Catholic women called incubators for Rome, Catholic children described as vermin.

  • harry flashman

    Oh dear ss you really won’t let it go will you, “themmuns was like nazis so they were”. Well for your information I grew up as a catholic in a largely nationalist town in the 1960s, and I will not retract what I said, there was discrimination and it was petty, yes, petty.

    Let me explain; people of my acquaintance can still quote offhand the dispropotionate number of protestants who drove school buses in Fermanagh in the years 1950-65, but ye see that doesn’t compare to shipping six million men, women and children in cattle trucks to be systematically murdered. Really it doesn’t, no it isn’t even kinda like a wee bit similar, it is absolutely, rootin’ tootly different ok?

    A riot broke out in west Belfast because police at the instigation of a firebrand preacher reluctantly (read the papers of the time the local police chief was unwilling to do the raid until forced by ministers) attempted to enforce a stupid law against a political party who openly sought the overthrow of the state, shameful I agree but no one died. In early December 1941 in the course of three days 250 000 people were herded out of Riga into the neighbouring forest and butchered, see just like the Falls Road – NOT!

    Ah yes, South Africa, everyone in Northern Ireland was subject to the same electoral laws regardless of religion. This was universal adult suffrage in Westminster and Stormont elections and ratepayer franchise in local elections, in strict numerical terms this latter disenfranchised a larger number of protestant voters than catholics but may have led to imbalances in local councils (I will explain “may” in a moment). South Africa, no black people had the vote AT ALL, none, they had to carry passbooks at all time on pain of jail, they were subject to curfew at all times, they were denied citizenship of the country in which they were born, yup that’s just the same as happened in Dungannon wasn’t it?

    I’m accused of being a revisionist, well here’s something you can check up for yourself if you go to the library. Remember Derry? The famously gerrymandered local council where cunning unionists manipulated the vote to give them the majority right? So after the electoral system was reformed the nationalists must have won a majority of the votes cast right? WRONG! The first election to the reformed city council still gave a majority of first past the post votes to unionists, only when second and third transfers were counted using the new PR system were unionists denied overall control with the Alliance (unionists) holding the balance of power. Amazing, ironically in the city demanding ‘one man one vote’ it actually took one man several votes before a unionist majority could be overturned and even then the SDLP were still in a minority.

    For crying out loud ss, grow up, we weren’t the Most Oppressed People Ever, ok? It’s an insult to people who suffered real oppression to claim we did, leave it go, stop digging man.

  • jaffa

    BB,

    on this site I’ve seen loyalists described as untermenchen without complaint from nationalist contributors

  • David Vance

    Jude the obscure delights in being one of the Most Oppressed People Ever .his argument is specious and insulting to Unionists and Jews, though those are two groups Irish republicans appear to have a problem with it.

    Sny thoughts amongst the Slugger cognescenti why the Redemptorist Order has such a problem understanding Jews? Naturally you will all be aware that 100 years ago Redemtorist Fr. Creagh had a similarly distorted view of Jewish people.

  • Brian Boru

    “This was universal adult suffrage in Westminster and Stormont elections and ratepayer franchise in local elections, in strict numerical terms this latter disenfranchised a larger number of protestant voters than catholics”

    Not true I believe. Link?

    “Remember Derry? The famously gerrymandered local council where cunning unionists manipulated the vote to give them the majority right? So after the electoral system was reformed the nationalists must have won a majority of the votes cast right? WRONG! The first election to the reformed city council still gave a majority of first past the post votes to unionists, only when second and third transfers were counted using the new PR system were unionists denied overall control with the Alliance (unionists) holding the balance of power. Amazing, ironically in the city demanding ‘one man one vote’ it actually took one man several votes before a unionist majority could be overturned and even then the SDLP were still in a minority.”

    Even under Straight Vote, the combined votes of the Nationalist parties outnumbered the Unionists. The PR-STV system is fairer and reflects the respective communities in Derry City Council in rough proportion to their share of the vote and that’s the way it should be.

  • jaffa

    David,

    I think that’s been explored on an earlier thread. There’s a quite detailed post elsewhere by Fair Deal and some vigourous response.

    Perhaps you could respond to Harry’s generosity and get the beam out of your own eye.

  • baldrick

    It really pains me to add this comment but a fairly good discussion is yet again being flushed down the pan.

    “No chance of an honest or realistic reinterpretation of your ‘glorious’ recent history anytime soon, lads?”

    What about the brave lads of the RA, (and INLA, UVF,UDA and sundry paramilitary scum) honestly acknowledging their glorious victories, La Mon, Darkley, Rising Sun, Ormeau Rd bookies etc…. as common or garden, hatred inspired murder and offering to take their turn at “wearing sackcloth and ashes”.

    History can’t be changed and I can’t hold anyone accountable for actions and attitudes other than their own. So I acknowledge the discrimination etc practiced by the Stormont era. but am I responsible? – NO. Do I really need to apologise for things which happened 20,30,40-400 years before I was born? – F*cked if I see any logic in that argument.

    Yes, Honesty in respect of the past is something we all need more of; but that argument presses even more strongly on the actions of recent history, were those who actually did the deeds are alive to acknowledge (and if need be apologise) for those actions. And that same argument cuts evenly into both communities / traditions.

    I personally suspect however that tolerance and a willingness to use the failings of the past as means to shape a better future rather than a stick to beat the opposition would prove a lot more valuable than any God’s amount of apologies.

    Come on lads, the war is over, let’s not keep climbing back into the old trenches.

  • harry flashman

    BB I’m sorry I can’t give you the link, I’m away from home just now and haven’t access to my books. However I’m almost certain you will find more protestants were disenfranchised than catholics in local elections, proportionately of course more catholics suffered but like I say I can’t lay my hands on the figures just now.

    The same applies to the 1974 Derry council results but the point being if it had been carried out according to one man one vote unionists would still have remained in control. Derry city was undoubtedly a majority nationalist city but the council included as it still does the heavily unionist rural areas.

    I also once heard on Talkback a report that showed that almost exactly the same proportion of catholics had NI Housing Executive homes in the mid 1990s as had council houses in the mid 1960s and it was slightly above 50%. Again I can’t lay hand on the exact report but I remember Eamon McCann commenting that council house tenancies showed the amount of poverty in the catholic community and that this was what he was campaigning about. Er, Eamon that’s precisely not what you were complaining about back then.

    Sorry I can’t quote chapter and verse so you can take my figures any way you want.

  • Betty Boo

    Reading posts on this thread and others leaves me absolutely boggled about the extent and depth so many are prepared to go to avoid sharing responsibility for the past and therefore for the future. It comes across as pie throwing. Everyone goes for everyone else, what could be laughable the first time around although I always felt sorry for the makers of the pies.
    The whole controversy about Father Reid’s comments is beyond any rational interpretation because it has gotten out of proportions and is unfit to be part of an issue addressing / resolving process.

    Those who thought of themselves to be the distinct and rightful rulers of Ulster for four centuries, wiping away in one stroke an eight thousand years history, feel a sense of loss and can’t let go. What is on offer to fill the void is nothing compared to what they were told they had. And so they are holding on to something they never really possessed and are now asked to share.

  • an seabhac siulach

    Harry Flashman

    So because you are (were?) a catholic, does that mean that you cannot now be a unionist and hold their views (for whatever reason)?

    So, we have settled that the unionists in the six counties were not herding catholics into cattle wagons and gassing them between the years 1920-1972, as you have helpfully pointed out. Nor that things were as bad in the six counties as in Apartheid South Africa. So far so good. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Of course, by going extravagantly over the top in your comparisons you clumsily seek to take away from the (admittedly lesser) fact that there was serious discrimination in the six counties? A neat literary trick. Distract the attention from the main point of the argument, that serious discrimination was taking place.
    Of course, I do not think Northern nationalists are the most oppressed people ever. Ridiculous. Another attempt at distraction from the main point.
    What is clear (from the history books) is that they were not treated as equals in the six counties, or as they should have been treated as citizens of the United Kingdom. That is the point at issue here. Being called nazis apparently is the only way to shock you unionists into remotely considering this issue, it would seem. (Nazi in the narrow and modern sense of treating others as less equal as yourself for race/religous reasons).
    If, as you say, ALL the grievances of catholics were petty, why then the huge support for the civil rights movements when they finally took off? Did the people just like marching? Why deny reality? In doing so you are denying historical fact. I suppose it was a petty matter that my grandfather was refused a job in the civil service in the 1930s on account of the school he went to…of course, petty in the grand universal scale of things, and petty when connected to the suffering in wars, famines, plagues, etc., but VERY important in the life of an individual. And, surely, that is the point. I mean, one could argue that all of what goes on in the six counties is petty, a minor religous/political dispute with low level violence (at worst)…but where it affects individuals it is important. Ah, but it was petty that all the bus drivers were protestant, tell that to the poor catholic family who had no income as their father could not get work. But then, maybe all life is petty, is that it?
    I do not see the connection any of this has to do with Derry voting practises…the FACT is that there were gerrymandered districts, hence, a denial of a (fair) vote to many catholics for decades. The fact that, subsequently, unionist support (perhaps amongst catholics who could finally vote fairly) was higher than expected is neither here nor there. Revisionism in my experience come from an attempt to twist the facts of the past to fit some modern viewpoint or crackpot theory…hence you are a revisionist…there WAS discrimination is the six counties, that is an historical fact.

  • Butterknife

    Terrance O’Neill … if only and what if?

  • IJP

    Brian

    Some of the language of political Unionism has historically resembled that of the Nazis towards the Jews e.g. Catholic women called incubators for Rome, Catholic children described as vermin.

    True.

    And likewise in reverse.

    What’s your point?

  • harry flashman

    Yes SS we’ve finally come round to agreement; there was discrimination and in the scale of oppresion around the world it was petty, yes your granda was pissed off because he didn’t get a job in the civil service seventy years ago(and I’m sure you have concrete evidence it was because it was the school he went to).

    So that’s it then we agree – Father Reid’s Nazi comparison was absurd.

  • Jo

    “The whole controversy about Father Reid’s comments is beyond any rational interpretation because it has gotten out of proportions”

    Betty, you are right. And why?

    One bigoted and stupid remark from an elderly Catholic priest led to far more horror and condemnation from Paisley’s fellow Unionists than did Paisleys 5 DECADES of stupidity and bigotry, hardly surprising since a majority now support him.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Flashman: “Yes SS we’ve finally come round to agreement; there was discrimination and in the scale of oppresion around the world it was petty, yes your granda was pissed off because he didn’t get a job in the civil service seventy years ago(and I’m sure you have concrete evidence it was because it was the school he went to). “

    When you sum it all up, in aggregate, flashman, you have a great deal of anger and discontent. Likewise, if thing from 1921 to 1972 were an idyll, punctuated only by “petty prejudice,” what do you make of the burning of Catholic churches and the riots spearheaded by the B-Specials? Brookeborough and Craig — these were not crazy men on orange crates, but leaders of the state.

    Flashman: “So that’s it then we agree – Father Reid’s Nazi comparison was absurd”

    No, it was hyperbole. If it were wholly without merit, there wouldn’t be such a fuss.

  • Betty Boo

    Jo,

    Thanks for that but going by the flood of excitement still coming in, it seems there is a hell of a long tunnel ahead before any light will sift through.

  • Jo

    Betty

    …and people really wonder why women are under-represented on bogs?? 😉

  • Betty Boo

    Jo,

    They seem to wonder about an awful lot of things and wonder away with them.
    I barely dare to wonder where to.

  • Paddy Matthews

    Harry Flashman:

    Remember Derry? The famously gerrymandered local council where cunning unionists manipulated the vote to give them the majority right? So after the electoral system was reformed the nationalists must have won a majority of the votes cast right? WRONG! The first election to the reformed city council still gave a majority of first past the post votes to unionists, only when second and third transfers were counted using the new PR system were unionists denied overall control with the Alliance (unionists) holding the balance of power. Amazing, ironically in the city demanding ‘one man one vote’ it actually took one man several votes before a unionist majority could be overturned and even then the SDLP were still in a minority.

    Local Government Results 1973-81, Derry/Londonderry

    1973 First Preference Vote totals:

    United Loyalist (umbrella label for all Unionist parties): 12,483 (36.77%)
    SDLP: 11,008 (32.43%)
    Alliance: 4,930 (14.52%)
    Nationalist: 2,850 (8.40%)
    Republican Clubs: 2,901 (6.16%)
    NILP: 88 (0.26%)
    Independent Republican: 71 (0.21%)
    Non-party: 183 (0.54%)
    Independent: 242 (0.71%)

    36.77% is not a “majority”. And talking about “first past the post votes” in an STV election is meaningless.

    Derry city was undoubtedly a majority nationalist city but the council included as it still does the heavily unionist rural areas.

    Not before 1973 it didn’t.

  • eranu

    jo, “women are under-represented on bogs?? ;)” i think you’re wrong here. when im out and about in pubs and restaurants, i find that for every male toilet there is also a female toilet available ! 🙂

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Jude Collins needs the scales removed from his eyes…no right-minded person can give Bigot Reid’s hate-filled bile the time of day.

  • Brian Boru

    “What’s your point?”

    That the comparison with Nazis, while certainly not true in actions, has some truth in terms of language used to demonise the minority.

  • Dandyman

    On bogs?

    Never really thought about it, but now that you bring it up…why ARE women under-represented on bogs?

  • harry flashman

    Excellent post Paddy thanks, I love the internet; you can get the info you need within minutes of asking.

    Now, analysing those figures; if you combine the Alliance and Unionist vote, and I am prepared to accept that might be a pretty big “if”, the pro-union vote is in a slight majority. That is my point, the accepted truth of the time was that Derry was a heavily nationalist majority town and the only reason the Unionist party had control was because they gerrymandered two wards in Derry city, North Ward and Northland if I’m not mistaken. This proves that if the Unionist had done so, and remember the electoral boundaries had been drawn up in the 30’s long before Creggan was built and at the time no nationalist councillors complained about the boundaries, then there was no need to do so as they would probably still have had control. I stand to be corrected that the rural heavily protestant wards were very much included in the old Londonderry Corporation boundary.

    The point of my post is not to indulge in some revisionist argument that NI was the best wee country ever, but to put into perspective the wild claims about the nature of discrimination in the six counties.

  • Dandyman

    On bogs?

    Never really thought about it, but now that you bring it up…why ARE women under-represented on bogs?

  • an seabhac siulach

    Harry Flashman:

    **Yes SS we’ve finally come round to agreement; there was discrimination and in the scale of oppresion around the world it was petty, yes your granda was pissed off because he didn’t get a job in the civil service seventy years ago(and I’m sure you have concrete evidence it was because it was the school he went to).
    So that’s it then we agree – Father Reid’s Nazi comparison was absurd.**

    Not to bring my Grandfather further into this but yes there is concrete evidence…not that we are ones to hold a 70 year long grudge or anything!!
    (More like 400 year old grudges but that’s a different matter)

    I do not agree with you, in fact. By your line of thinking, all is petty up here…but then this is a blog about the six counties not elsewhere. What is relevant to the people up here is how they perceive they were treated…in the popular mind their treatment is perceived as being discriminatory, or in the most crude ill-thought out language, nazi-like…but I think what people mean by nazi (I cannot speak for Fr. Reid) is clearly the narrow modern meaning of nazi, i.e., the treating of others in a sectarian/discriminatory way for race/religous reasons. For example, that refereee is a nazi, my boss is a right nazi, etc.
    Whether you think it is petty or not in your ivory castle is one thing, how the majority of people see it is another. A bit of humility from unionist leaders on their past wrongs would not go amiss at this time.

    I think we can and should, however, agree that there was quite blatant and persistent discrimination taking place in the six counties. Why else would a 19 year old single woman be offered a council house in Caledon in 1968 (was it?) when there was a list of catholic families as long as your arm waiting for the same house. Oh, sorry, that’s petty, isn’t it…
    If all of this is petty, then why are unionists so offended by being compared to nazis? Surely, a mature, confident people as they plainly are would laugh off such a ridiculous comparison, unless,…unless that is, there is just the smallest bit of truth in the comment…and they recognise something of themselves in the description. For example, some in these pages have suggested that the Free State goverment’s treatment of protestants in the south was also nazi-like…a suggestion so absurd as to be laughable. No one in the south is offended by such a statement as it clearly has NO basis in fact and can be clearly laughed off as the lunacy it is. Why not up here? Wonder why?

    Baldrick:

    Nationalists HAVE apologised for the hurt they caused in the past…see old IRA statement from 3 years ago.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/2132113.stm
    Why has this statement been so quickly forgotten?
    What’s more they have now decommisioned…the greatest step towards peace in Ireland in 100 years…but for unionists the important thing is not this fact but some comments by an old priest in an obscure meeting. Wake up and face up to the main issues, please (return of power sharing)…time is a pressing…
    What more excuses do unionists have now…there is no IRA anymore, what other hoop will they invent now for Sinn Fein to jump through before the institutions are set up again?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Man, this controversy just runs and runs!

    At first I hoped that this might provide us with an opportunity to have a serious debate about the outstanding historical issues which still bind our every move. I had hoped President McAleese’s Freudian slip earlier in the year might do likewise, but no such luck either time. It’s pretty clear that we’re all still feeling far too sorry for ourselves to actually have a meaningful discussion about the past.

    (In some ways one might see Willie Frazer as the personification of our collective enthrallment to the past. His every action seems to be dictated by his interpretation of his duty to the dead – in a way, that’s true of us all. Willie Frazer is a profoundly sad figure, one who probably needs professional counselling – we are a profoundly sad society in need of some kind of counselling. That counselling might be the debate about our history that I referred to above.

    But as I say, clearly we aren’t ready for that yet.

    For all that though, Father Reid’s outburst might yet be helpful in setting out the parameters of that debate. We need to develop some sort of consensus around the rhetoric we use in political discourse. We need to develop a culture of responsible rhetoric.

    That means no more analogies. I have always hated analogies – they are always, ALWAYS, total bullshit. If someone has a case to make, and we all think we do, then it should be possible to make that case on its own merits. Analogies are almost always rhetorical filler, invoked as a substitute for substance. In fact, analogies are usually no more than a fancy kind of name-calling.

    Honestly, we just can’t help ourselves. For example I saw Gregory Campbell on last week lambasting Fr Reid. In the same breath he declared his outrage at the Nazi slur, then talked about how Protestants in the Waterside had been the victims of “genocide”. And not the slightest trace of irony.

    If nationalists want to argue that unionism has been all about sectarian supremacism, then they should do that. If they could make that charge stick then there is absolutely no need – indeed it’s counterproductive – to start invoking a rogue’s gallery of other `supremacist’ political movements from history.

    Equally if unionists want to make the case that Irish nationalism has been all about violence and monoculturalism, then fine – make that argument. But leave the historical analogies out of it.

    So here’s my checklist of terms never to be used as analogies. (To be used only when strictly relevant to the issue at hand):

    Nazism (Hitler, brownshirts, SS etc)

    Fascism

    Cold War rhetoric (gulags, Stalinism, McCarthyism etc)

    “Ethnic cleansing”, genocide, holocaust etc

    Apartheid

    Jim Crow

    Would we find it much easier to have a mature, civilised and mutually beneficial discourse if we could talk to each other without invoking these terms?

    Any other suggestions that should be added to the checklist?

  • slug

    “Any other suggestions that should be added to the checklist?”

    All patronising language.