Sectarianism won the streets of Dublin

Susan McKay explores some interesting parallels between some of the chants and verbal abuse hurled by Republican protesters and those hurled at the PSNI by loyalists in Northern Ireland – and wonders whether either is really interested in the reality of a pluralist future.


  • Good piece.

    She performed very well on Questions and Answers on Monday night as did Jeffrey Donaldson (although he could barely contain his glee with the outcome of Saturdays attempted parade).

  • DK

    Excellent piece.

    The point about any debate on victims/FAIR’s accusations etc. being drowned out was a good one.

    I also have a perverse joy whenever the police are being accused of belonging to the other side – it gives me hope that they aren’t as biased as they used to be.

  • Thomas

    I know this is not the thread but could the mod please start a thread on the NIE increase (why does Translink buy their supply from Ireland for example?) for i moot that we now live in “rip off NI”

  • Baluba

    good article from ms mc kay, although i still think more is being made of this than necessary. there was a large ‘hood’ element to this. just young thugs who took an opportunity to attack the peelers. no real attempt was made to attack the ulster lovers by all accounts.


    no real attempt was made to attack the ulster lovers by all accounts.

    Aye right.

    Denial denial denial.
    If that’s what gets you through the day.

  • Baluba

    I didn’t deny there was sectarian rioting. I said there was no real indication that there was an attempt to attack the marchers themselves. Of course there was sectarian rioting, but there was also a significant hood element.

    Btw, strong tae gets me through the day.

  • Dk

    If you have a suggestion for a topic, email Mick – moderator

  • heck

    I have been thinking about this violence in Dublin since the week end and while I wish it had not happened I would like to add a different perspective.

    Wasn’t the march similar to those that the national front or BNP organized in heavily immigrant neighborhoods, or that the American Nazi party organized in Skokie Illinois. It was designed to provoke a reaction.

    I am of the opinion that these types of marches should be allowed to go ahead but people also have the right to protest.

    If the BNP marched through the center of Bradford and a riot followed then of course the rioters would be blamed and prosecuted. However anti racist activists would have every right to protest as would the anti Nazi protesters in Skokie. (I had friends in Britain in the 70’s would were members of the anti Nazi league–the sole purpose of which was to counter national front demonstrations.)

    If a police allowed such a march to go ahead and did not supply adequate policing then there would be calls for the police chief resignation or even the resignation of the home secretary.

    Shouldn’t the same standards apply here.
    Loyalist should be allowed to march in Dublin.
    Those who disagree should be allowed to protest.
    Tempers will get heated and there should be adequate policing to prevent the situation getting out of hand.

    Given that this didn’t happen shouldn’t the justice minister be held to account and his resignation demanded. This is what would happen in any normal society. Instead the event is being used as an excuse for republican bashing and as another excuse by unionists not to share power with nationalists. At the same time the Irish justice minister is being let off the hook.

  • Grassy Noel

    Well said Heck – IF that is your real name, heh heh. (Sorry Mick, couldn’t resist that).

    Anyway, sectarianism DIDN’T win the streets on Dublin at the weekend. I know that’s how it looked and that is of course how it is being spun, both politically and in the mainstream media, but anyone who wants to know the truth should clink on the Indymedia Ireland link that was on one of the threads on Slugger yesterday (I forget which one) and read a true account of what happened at the weekend. He (er..I PRESUME it’s a he..!)seems to have seen pretty much EXACTLY what I saw, so I can vouch for him (or her).

    I was on O’Connell Street on Saturday from 12.20pm until about 3.30. I was amazed at the lack of public awareness in the weeks leading up to the march. Those that did know the march had been planned dismissed it and said the cool, casual, laid-back citizens of ‘Celtic Tiger’ Ireland would just tut-tut, roll their eyes and snigger, continue on with their regular weekend shopfest and that nothing untoward would happen. A lot of people did do this, but those who think that 800 years of history can be erased by a few years of steady economic progress…well, okay, spectacular economic progess, are in my view clueless idiots with their heads so far up their own arses they wouldn’t even be able to tell you which direction the North is in, even if it were pointed out to them on a compass.

    I went into town on Saturday knowing that:

    a)SOMETHING historical was about to happen one way or another, whether it be the first loyalist march on O’Connell Street in living memory or whether chaos ensued on a scale unseen in Ireland in the modern era and

    b) That there would DEFINITELY be trouble of some sort, the only question in my mind was on what scale would the trouble be.

    Having done a postgraduate diploma in journalism a couple of years back and remembering the couple of classes dealing with social disorder, I loaded up my camera beforehand. A couple of times, particularly at the start of the riot, I had to run from the advancing police line lest I feel the sting of swinging batons myself, I was that close to the action.

    Unfortunately, I am sadly lacking in the skills required to be a professional photographer. I collected my photos Monday evening and they were awful. The quality was rubbish and though most of them were taken standing on tip-toes with my camera held aloft over my head, I was very disappointed with how they turned out. But I have since discovered that the money I paid to do the Journalism course, although I am not currently employed in the field of journalism, was not entirely wasted…it was and is astonishing to witness the amount of political and editorial spin put on the events of Saturday the 25th of February in the mainstream media.

    I read the Indymedia Ireland article linked on this site yesterday and I want to say that it was the truest, most honest eyewitness account to pretty much anything I have ever been able to bear witness to. Yes, I’m sure there was some rabble-rousing beforehand, and yes there were sectarian slogans chanted during the riot, but the people on the front line, who were breaking stuff up and pelting it at the cops, were pretty much all hoodie-wearing, Celtic FC-supporting, tracksuited chavs and spides with little or no political affiliation and whatever pseudo-republican motives they were effecting (no doubt in the full knowledge that the national media were watching) for the day that was in it, I can assure you, they were temporary.

    I would also agree with the author that this riot will have little or no bearing on the wider peace process and its consequences in that context are being ridiculously exaggerated as usual, however it could have serious implications for the maintenance of law and order on the streets of Dublin in the near future. For instance, anyone who has witnessed the city centre on Paddy’s Day in the last 2-3 years would I think concur that there is potential cause for worry looking ahead to the impending celebrations this year, which are barely a fortnight away.


  • spartacus

    swp statement on riots:

    The riots on O Connell St reveal the deep-seated social tensions at the heart of the Celtic Tiger

    About 500 mainly young working class men stopped an Orange parade and then mainly turned their anger on the Irish Gardai and commercial property.

    The media and the political establishment have responded with a blatant class prejudice.
    Commentators like Gerry Ryan use the national airwaves to refer to the rioters as ‘scumbags’ and mimic Dublin working class accents. The rioters are supposed to have ‘low intelligence’ and are branded as ‘thugs’. But behind the class prejudice is a deep-seated fear in bourgeois circles about where Irish society is going.

    The Orange march through Dublin was a provocation. Contrary to some commentators, the
    Orange Order does not ‘represent’ the Protestant community or express ‘Protestant culture’.
    It is a reactionary institution that over decades fought to displace the most progressive
    sentiments of Irish Protestants in favour of a supremacist ideology. It projects a false
    communal unity around the idea that Catholics should take second place. Fortunately, the
    Orange Order has entered a periods of decline and is unable to muster large numbers for
    its supremacist parades through areas like the Garvaghy Road. Its only answer is to stage
    sectarian stunts to revive its communal grip.

    The Southern ruling class have their own problems. Largely unreported by the media there
    has been the rise of a huge protest movement that, although still fragmented, shows
    significant signs of generalisation. Once expression of this movement – and it is only one-is the rise of Sinn Fein in the polls.

    The discontent is creating greater divisions within the elite. One wing of the establishment around FF and Mary McAleese wants to counter Sinn Fein by wrapping the green flag ever tighter around themselves and reclaiming republicanism for Southern state. Hence the
    military style parade to commemorate 1916.

    The other wing led most vociferously by McDowell wants provocations to discredit Sinn Fein and other ‘subversives’. There is no doubt that they openly connived at the bringing the loyalist march to Dublin to stage such a provocation. On various occasions McDowell indicated support for this march – and was even mooted at as possible speaker.

    His claim that the Gardai knew nothing about the scale of the opposition is entirely bogus.

    Republican Sinn Fein made no secret of their intentions to organise a counter-protest – and their military associates are in any case heavily infiltrated by the police.

    McDowell wanted a provocation to present republicanism as ‘thuggish’ and also to create
    the ground for police repression. Watch out for some late additions to his Criminal Justice Bill.

    Socialists do not join in the condemnation of young working class people who riot against
    the police – especially given this wider context.

    Some of the actions of the rioters were mistaken – like attacking the journalist Charlie
    Bird as a symbol of the political establishment; or presenting the Orange Order as people ‘who belong up there’. Singing Fields of Athenry or waving tricolours does nothing to widen the breach between the Orange Order and the Protestant workers who joined their Catholic brothers and sisters on a magnificent postal strike some days before hand.

    However, every riot contains contradictory elements precisely because it is spontaneous. Like the French riots recently they emerge suddenly – often when the organised left
    least expect it. But overall they are part of a revolt against an arrogant elite who live a
    life of privilege and disdain for the poor.

    The riots show why it is more urgent than ever why a new left needs to make a mark on Irish society. The new left needs to give voice to that anger and connect it with struggles that can shake the system.

    The history of this state means that many may look to republicanism. But the Adams wing
    has already started the long, slow march into the political establishment and while the RSF harks back to the armed struggle even though it has neither the capacity or support to wage one.

    Only a new left which challenges both imperialism and the rule of Irish capital offers a viable way forward.

  • lah dee dah

    Two points: I still find it hard to believe that the police didn’t at least have reserves nearby just in case and that they allowed such an event in an area with ready ammunition easily available. This was an unusual march to say the least and the potential for trouble should have been realised with or without prior intelligence.

    The marching /parading / procession issue is a boil that needs to be lanced. Perhaps it has been now. No-one is really happy with it. Themselves Alone were happy for the event in Dublin to go ahead yet they defend resident groups in Northern Ireland who object to other residents having a procession to and from church. We recently had reports of a ridiculous situation in Northern Ireland where a vintage car club needed permission from the parades commission to take their cars for a planned outing. Perhaps the aftermath of this will generate some movement on ‘parading’.

  • I am just amazed at how people, the writer of this article, and most posters, just assume that this was a natural event where republican did their thing – mirroring what loyalists often do in Northern Ireland.

    The biggest problem is that no republicans have yet been identified, leaving open the possiblity that most of the rioters were somehow mobilized just to make trouble for Republicans. And don’t forget that Ireland, North and South, is the most hilghy conspiratorial place on the planet.

  • J McConnell

    Trowbridge H. Ford

    Maybe you are onto something..

    It could be a conspiracy by the southern securicrates to discredit republicans. I can just imagine the Special Branch boys going round the back lanes of Finglas West, Tallagh and Clondalkin last Friday night whispering – hey Dekko, hey Anto, like to earn a quick couple of tenners to start a mill on O’Connel Street. We’ll even make sure you’ll have plenty of bricks to throw at the Prods….

    Or maybe it was really was those wily republican who organized a bit of aggro that looked like it had been organized by the securicrates to discredit the republicans. Thats would show the bog-trotting goons in Pearce St who they are still dealing with…

    Or maybe it was organized by MI5 operatives to make it look like the republicans where trying to embarrasses the Special Branch by pretending the Special Branch were trying to discredit the republicans…

    Or maybe it was the CIA trying to discredit MI5 to protect their secret flights through Shannon….

    Or maybe it was…

    Or maybe it was just a bunch of republican rabble, the knuckle dragging types you’ll always find at any republican get-together, doing what they do best, intimidation and violence.

    J McConnell

  • Keith M

    I’ll (just about) forgive Susan McKay for having the same congential defect whixh aflicts most people from Northern Ireland which it comes to looking at the reactions of people in this country. I say “just about” because she has now lived in this country for so long that she should have outgrown that defect and gained some comprehension of the attitudes of the vast majority here.

    According to McKay “The political establishment had underestimated the depth of feeling among the Irish people against the Love Ulster parade, they piously claimed.” This is wrong on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to start. Most Irish people (and here I’m going to be most specific and only talk about those living in and around Dublin), couldn’t give two hoots about the parade. Their only feelings (like mine) is that parades like this should not happen at peak shopping time, and bring disruption to our major thoroughfares. Crossong O’ Connell St. etc becomes a nighmare when any parade is running.

    Most Dublin people don’t give two hoots about the Love Ulster parade. They neither support it not have any particular problem with it. The actions of a few political neandathdals, scumbags and thugs are not representative of the feeling of most Irish people. Indeed everywhere I hear Saturday’s events being discussed, that is the REAL message.

    McKay lives in a little cocoon. She fails to appreciate that Northern Ireland its troubles and current political impasse is not of the slighest interest to the vast majority of people in this country. Until she gains some perspective it is hard to take her writing seriously.

  • Good list of possibilities, DK1, but since the police have ruled out the last one – that it was just a bunch of republican thugs – you will have to go with the others.

    Mine would be British and Irish securocrats who convinced Dublin that nothing serious would happen, Gardai regular police that they would be enough to maintain order, and the local underworld that it could make a killing by just starting a riot.

  • Peter Brown

    “Yes, I’m sure there was some rabble-rousing beforehand, and yes there were sectarian slogans chanted during the riot, but the people on the front line, who were breaking stuff up and pelting it at the cops, were pretty much all hoodie-wearing, Celtic FC-supporting, tracksuited chavs and spides with little or no political affiliation and whatever pseudo-republican motives they were effecting (no doubt in the full knowledge that the national media were watching) for the day that was in it, I can assure you, they were temporary.”

    Look at the photos and those carrying banners and you might realise you have just described the Republican protestors who are carrying the banners in the photos or were they rent a mob to the extent that they were hired to hold placards or maybe the rioters were other chavs and you stopped them and asked them did they have political motives and they reassured you that they were just ODRs or Ordinary Decent Rioters?

  • TOT

    and there was me thinking it was just a load of yobs who thought it was a good excuse to smash up o connell street for a laugh.

    i need to be more enlightened as the protest obviously had a serious political point.

  • Wee Dub

    “i need to be more enlightened as the protest obviously had a serious political point”

    sorry, but did the parade have a serious political point? there was me thinking it was just a day out to provoke some catholics knowing full well that the protesters would react, knowing that people affected by the dublin monaghan bomb would be there!

    anyway, the riot was aimed more at the gardai we actually have our own policing problems!

  • Grassy Noel

    Not trying to be clever, but I don’t really get your point…I’ve acknowledged that there WAS some sectarianism among the 3-400 yobs who attacked the police and tore up the street, and that there were, no doubt, some fringe elements of splinter republican groups there egging them on. That’s generally agreed by all. The point I was making was that their numbers were considereably reinforced and I don’t believe that the MAJORITY of hoodies and tracksuits who joined in as the afternoon wore on were there for political motives, they just wanted to trash the place, and the cops while they were at it. The mainstream media and opportunistic politicians on both sides of the border, however, are spinning & exaggerating this for all they’re worth. That’s an undeniable fact.

    I was there all afternoon, there was an almost carnival atmosphere behind the front lines for most of it among the spectators. For instance, I witnessed several large groups of teenage girls from all classes of society, caked in make up, Miss Selfridge bags hanging off them, wetting themselves with excitement at the thought of some of the shops they’d just been in with Mammy & Daddy’s credit card, having its windows smashed and being looted. They could hardly contain themselves for fits of giggles and were practically cheering on the scangers battling the Gardai. These girls couldn’t find the GPO if they were standing in front of it.

    But, I suppose deep-down they’re hard-core republicans too?

  • Grassy Noel

    Grassy Noel here again – that last post was to whoever quoted me in post no. 16, I don’t know who it was…