Tribalist clouds swamp Republican vision

Eoghan Harris argues strongly that the responsibility for the debacle of yesterday’s event is a lack of leadership and vision from right across the political and media classes.

WE have disgraced ourselves again. And I do mean we. We cannot pretend the tribal thugs who attacked the Protestant march came from another planet. We share too many of their sectarian attitudes to allow us off the hook. In the words of Alexander Herzen about the Russian anarchists: “they are the syphilis of our passions.” Do you doubt we share the same tribal passions as the lumpen republicans who used iron railings to rip into the marchers?

Of the politicians, the worst he alleges is silence:

Far from the Taoiseach and his ministers making firm calls for calm and tolerance, they stayed largely silent on the symbolic importance of the march passing off peacefully. Past comparisons of Protestants and Nazis made by President McAleese and Fr Alec Reid – and widely reported by the tabloids – have not helped to cool the tribal temperature.

He argues that in the absence of sustained political leadership the media began the day in ‘tribal mode’:

Meantime, most of the Irish media went into tribal mode. This ranged from the amused indifference affected by most mainstream commentators to the openly tribal stance taken up by some presenters on Newstalk 106, so much so that a few weeks ago I called it Tribal talk 106 in my weekly column. Given that Newstalk is aimed at a Dublin audience, it might have been expected to create as much empathy as possible between marchers and public by explaining the sufferings of South Armagh Protestants. But no.

On Saturday morning, only a few hours before the march started, Newstalk was carrying competitions for jokes about “why the Orangeman crossed the road”. This was followed by a five-second clip from Damien Kiberd’s lunchtime show in which he mockingly asked if they were going to play ‘Kick the Pope’ music? In the absence of any pluralist programmes putting the point of view of the Protestant marchers, are we asked to believe that this did not create a sour climate?

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty