Riots have revoked licence to stereotype

David Adams in the Irish Times with an important perspective on the Dublin riots. All, he argues, is not lost! (subs Needed). He doesn’t use the word ‘historical” once, but he may well have nailed the long term significance of last Saturday, for Northerners and Southerners alike. “To date, the organisers of the riots in Dublin, and others, have had free rein to stereotype unionists as they like. But all is far from lost, for by their actions of last Saturday the same people have now gifted the rest of us with a perfect opportunity to set things right”.In the first place, this was not a Sinn Fein thang:

t is essential that some of the myths that have already taken hold be dispensed with. Contrary to initial reports, it is clear that “busloads of republican supporters” were not ferried in from Northern Ireland to initiate and take part in the violent disorder. In fact, the addresses of those who have appeared before the courts show that most rioters travelled from no farther than the outskirts of Dublin city.

Though it will undoubtedly disappoint many, there is no evidence to suggest that Sinn Féin was involved in organising or lending support to last Saturday’s disturbances. It would have been incredibly stupid of them if they had. Sinn Féin have many failings but stupidity is not one.

Nor was it a ‘Free State’ thang:

How atypical the Dublin troublemakers really are was confirmed by the outpouring of anger and revulsion at Saturday’s events from virtually every quarter in the Republic. Last Saturday’s thugs are no more a reflection of broader opinion than are the criminals, racists, homophobes and bigots that loiter on the margins of every society.

Nevertheless:

…the fact remains that the violence was planned and orchestrated by associates of the IRSP and Republican Sinn Féin. These are people well versed in the slogans of republicanism, but totally divorced from any real commitment to the sentiments contained therein. Their narrow, sectarian and exclusive brand of politics has much in common with the worldview of extreme nationalist groups like the British National Party.

But here’s the meat in the sandwich:

The danger lies in the fact that for far too long a simplistic one-sided version of recent history, such as people like this recount, has gone largely unchallenged in the Republic. This history ignores – or at worst bestows – nobility on countless sectarian atrocities committed over decades by the IRA and its offshoots. By their account, unionists (code for northern Protestants) and their British allies are inherently bad and fully deserving of whatever agonies were heaped upon them.

While the government of the Republic, over recent years, has succeeded in building good relationships with virtually all strands of unionism, this has largely taken place over the heads of the wider community in the South. There remains among the general population in the Republic, and this is particularly true among younger people, an almost complete lack of understanding of the unionist people of Northern Ireland, their history and the suffering they had to endure.

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  • missfitz

    I think Davy Adams is really making an important point, and one that has been highlighted in many of the threads since last weekend.

    To really move forward, what we need now is open and full dialogue, so that each side can start to understand the history and story of the other. Past grievances can never be erased, nor can they be justified, but the action of allowing your story to be told can allow the transformation to occur.

    Despite all the other underlying issues associated with the demonstration last week, in essence, you had a group of people who needed to make sure that their story was going to be told and listened to. That level of communication demands respect and dignity from the audience. I hope that some day in the future we may mature enough to be able to accord those rights to people.

  • fair_deal

    “there is no evidence to suggest that Sinn Féin was involved in organising or lending support to last Saturday’s disturbances…Sinn Féin have many failings but stupidity is not one.”

    No definitive statement of any groups involvement has been given so it is premature to give any republican grouping a clean bill of health.

    Too often Unionists have a myth of the near-infallability of republicans and this comment is an example of that. The republican movement’s actions over the past couple of years in their handling of the peace process could not always be described as intelligent nor infallable.

  • Here’s another quote from the article, that imho, you should have highlighted, Mick:

    “The most extraordinary claim made by some commentators is that the events of last Saturday somehow showed that, beneath a thin veneer of liberalism, the Republic is a deeply sectarian society.

    “From what evidence there is, it is beyond understanding how anyone can arrive at that conclusion. It was amply demonstrated, of course, that a tiny minority within the Republic are indeed sectarian. But that is hardly grounds for declaring them representative of everyone else around them.”

  • willis

    I largely agree with David, however I have problems with:

    “There remains among the general population in the Republic, and this is particularly true among younger people, an almost complete lack of understanding of the unionist people of Northern Ireland, their history and the suffering they had to endure”.

    In the South revisionism is an accepted part of the debate.

    In the North it is still largely two blocks of opinion which demand that you belong to one or the other. Susan McKay tries to apply a critical friends voice but gets dogs abuse in return. I the Loyalist/Unionists want to be understood they should let appreciate their moderate critics more.

    Willis

  • Mick Fealty

    Good one Gerry. Was just trying not to rip the whole thing without asking.

  • fair_deal

    “a critical friends voice”

    LMAO that’s cheered me up no end

  • willis

    fair_deal

    I rest my case

    Willis

  • fair_deal

    The more I read of this the more disjointed I find the logic.

    “The most extraordinary claim made by some commentators is that the events of last Saturday somehow showed that, beneath a thin veneer of liberalism, the Republic is a deeply sectarian society.
    “From what evidence there is, it is beyond understanding how anyone can arrive at that conclusion.

    The Protestant community in the south is tiny (less than 3% but growing through migrants). It is easy for a society to say it doesn’t have a problem when the vast majority of the society don’t come into contact/interact with someone of that different. Add to that the even lower levels of contact interaction with Ulster Protestants.

    As a friend of mine was told in Dublin a few months ago by a 32 year old man “You’re only the second Protestant I have met in my entire life” (Things went well until she mentioned her family were actually descended from Cromwellian settlers.)Granted an extreme example but still of value to demonstrate the lack of or even opportunity for serious interaction.

    It is easy for a near all-white community to say there is no racism but see what usually happens when that is put to the test when non-whte communities grow. Issues of racism aren’t restricted to BNP supporters so why is it extraordinary to say that sectarianism isn’t restricted to those who participated in the riot?

    What about the behaviour of parts of the Dublin media? The buses going to and from the parade were attacked along the route so the problems weren’t restricted to Dublin.

    This is also not the first example of difficulties. Linfield fans buses have been attacked while travelling in the Republic too (plus the attempt by fans of one Dublin team to start trouble at the Setanta cup final).

    Also the experiences of the new migrant communities in the Republic of Ireland over the past decade especially show that coping with difference has not come easy to people and communities in the Republic of Ireland (not that i am trying to claim Northern Ireland has been better on that score). Why should expressions of Protestantism, Britishness or just plain difference be exempt from the same difficulties?

    “The danger lies in the fact that for far too long a simplistic one-sided version of recent history….this has largely taken place over the heads of the wider community in the South. There remains among the general population in the Republic, and this is particularly true among younger people, an almost complete lack of understanding of the unionist people of Northern Ireland, their history and the suffering they had to endure.”

    This is the illogical part. Underlying problems of sectarianism are rejected yet it is admitted the exact form of ignorance that could create/perpetuate sectarianism exists in the RoI.

  • fair_deal

    Willis

    My comment was frivolous but it proves nothing.

    Susan McKay is a critic. It is a lazy assumption that simply because she comes from the religious background that she focuses her criticism upon that her intentions are ultimately benign.

  • George

    Fair deal,
    you are confusing a lack of understanding of unionists and their position with sectarianism.

    Unionism does not equal Protestantism.

    Most people in the Irish Republic, Catholic and Protestant, simply can’t understand why anybody on this island would want to be ruled by the British.

    Equally, the majority in NI simply can’t understand why anyone would want to be ruled from Dublin.

    Does that make them sectarian?

  • Nathan

    An intriguing article by David Adams, which challenges the Kevin Myers position i.e. that there is a rich vein of sectarianism in Irish society generally.

    Over the past week, I’ve been saddened to see the emphasis that has been placed on the Northside in particular and how sectarian that part of the world is, merely because it contains alot of dissident republicans who may have been responsible for the events of last weekend. I think this fixation is grossly unfair – the Northside of Dublin has a lot of social problems, but religious sectarianism is not one of them. What happened to Charlie Bird was completely unprecedented.

    Contrary to public belief, dissident capital-R Republican strongholds such as Clondalkin and Tallaght, cherish their minorities well. The fact that 2 working class Church of Irelanders represent these areas (e.g. Cllr Joe Neville, a one time PD man who now represents Fianna Fail at Council level, Cllr Robert Dowds, the local Labour rep) demonstrates the fact that while Northsiders may overdose themselves in political sectarianism from time to time, they still maintain a religiously anti-sectarian outlook whereever possible.

  • Nathan

    The 12.03pm comment was by me, Nathan

  • fair_deal

    George

    “Unionism does not equal Protestantism”

    Yep it doesn’t but although they are not co-determinant they are in an Ulster cotext strongly co-terminus. Understanding of one and its interaction and influence on the other can help the understanding of the both.

    Also sectarianism can be politically based (of which Jamaica is a fine example) as well as religiouslly based.

  • Nathan

    Fair_deal

    Senator Martin George Southcote-Mansergh is descended from Cromwellians, according to his biography. It doesn’t prevent him from lending a hand to the running of the Irish State, does it?

    By the way, the practising Protestant Community in the south is as small as it is (3% according to yourself, a figure I dispute) largely because some of its followers have ceased to be Protestant.

    Its that simple – former Protestants are now part of a larger heterogenius minority, the non-religious community, which is now the largest minority in Ireland.

  • Nathan

    The 12.24 comment was again, written by me, Nathan

  • Jacko

    If, as Fair-Deal would seem to have it, to be accepted as fully Protestant in Northern Ireland you must be unionist (I won’t even bother with the Linfield bit),is the most anti-Protestant notion that one could hold.
    Whether or not you agree with Susan MacKay, she is to be congratulated for acting in the true spirit of Protestantism – that is, instead of following like a sheep, she makes up her own mind on each issue and then articulates her view regardless of who it suits or doesn’t.

  • DK

    Nathan – “former Protestants are now part of a larger heterogenius minority, the non-religious community, which is now the largest minority in Ireland”

    And in Northern Ireland – fastest growing too – more than even the Catholics and Protestants. There is hope yet!

  • willis

    fair deal

    This quote might help

    “I wanted to do the book for two reasons – professionally I just felt that there is not enough known about Northern Protestants, particularly in the Republic. People have an idea that it is Paisley and that’s it,” she said. On a more personal note, Susan said “as a person from a Northern Protestant background, I needed to understand what the people that I come from were thinking and doing at the turn of this century.” Susan McKay

  • fair_deal

    Nathan

    I never said Cromwellian ancestry was a bar to anything other than a barrier for the 32yo Dubliner from befriending the person I know.

    Missfitz 5/Willis?

    “to be accepted as fully Protestant in Northern Ireland you must be unionist”

    Yawn. No I did not. I specifically agreed with Unionism not equating to Protestantism. Take the time to find out what co-terminus and co-determinant mean.

    “she makes up her own mind on each issue and then articulates her view regardless of who it suits or doesn’t.”

    For someone who is not a sheep it is astounding how often her analysis equates to the standard Sinn Fein line?

  • ok before the unionists start having multiple orgasms, let’s never forget that WE as republicans, sorry as PEOPLE, as human beings, came to talk to you in the 60’s 70’s, in fact some of Sand’s poems echo how we begged you just to talk to us and you didn’t , so let’s lay off any sanctiminious crap about level playing fields.
    Because 40 years later you still won’t even talk to us. Human rights my arse !
    Have a good weekend all.

  • fair_deal

    Willis

    I have read that particular quote before as I have read the book but what exactly is it meant to prove?

    I have also read her writings and comments in various feminist publications (take a trip to Linenhall Library someday)as well as her mainstream media material. There is often more to a person, their beliefs and their motivations than a sentence.

  • Grassy Noel

    Good points by David Adams.

    I’ve posted on previous threads for the last 4/5 days 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. However their numbers were considerably reinforced and I don’t believe that the MAJORITY of hoodies and tracksuits who joined in as the afternoon wore on were there for serious political motives, they just wanted to trash the place, and give the cops a good kicking 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, and 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. Now these girls couldn’t find the GPO if they were standing in front of it.

    But I suppose, deep-down, unknown even to themselves, they’re hard-core republican sectarionists as well?

    GRASSY NOEL

  • Reader

    spirit-level: WE as republicans, sorry as PEOPLE, as human beings, came to talk to you in the 60’s 70’s
    Really? What republican initiatives do you have in mind in the 60s and 70s? What was the republican position on Sunningdale?

  • Reader

    Dammit – 01:08PM comment was from (Reader)

  • willis

    fair_deal

    fair_enough comment about one sentence. Why don’t you bring an example of Susan McKay’s analysis being the same as Gerry Adams? A quote that is.

    willis

  • Nathan

    Fair deal,

    Is your friend a southern protestant or a northern protestant?

    I ask this because from my experience, southern protestants are quite conspicious when it comes to matters relating to private conscience. They rarely reveal their religious background in the manner you’ve described – certainly not to a complete stranger.

    Truth is, you can be well acquainted with protestants in the south (Dublin esp. where there is a great interaction between the denominations) and yet, not know which church they end up on a sunday.

    Its not that southern protestants wouldn’t disclose their denomination on demand, I believe they would, its just that people don’t bother enquiring. I believe this is a positive feature to contemporary life in Dublin – religion simply doesn’t register on peoples minds like it does up north [NAthan]

  • George

    Fair_Deal,
    “Also sectarianism can be politically based (of which Jamaica is a fine example) as well as religiouslly based”

    It can be argued that Northern Irish unionism and its attitude towards the Irish state and the idea of Irish self determination is a fine example of politically based sectarianism.

    The lack of understanding mentioned by Adams runs in both directions. It seems neither side wants to understand the other. The question is why?

    “Yep it doesn’t but although they are not co-determinant they are in an Ulster cotext strongly co-terminus. Understanding of one and its interaction and influence on the other can help the understanding of the both.”

    You are arguing that ignorance of the unionist position perpetuates sectarianism but unionism wilfully perpetuates a policy of total ignorance of the Irish “position”.

    I know we are in a chicken and egg situation here (the exact same claim can be laid the Irish people) but the Irish people will never get closer to understanding unionism as long as, every chance it gets, unionism tries to hide behind Protestantism rather than defending what is a political ideology.

  • fair_deal

    Nathan

    “Is your friend a southern protestant or a northern protestant?”

    Canadian of Ulster descent

  • fair_deal

    Willis

    Simple read her columns.

  • Garry

    I was in Dublin last Saturday, and I can confirm a number of things. As the riot progressed, more and more “disaffected youths” joined in, so that it definitely became more of an anti-Garda demo than an anti-march one. There were not “hundreds” of petrol bombs thrown. There were one or two at the start. The majority of missiles consisted of stones from the roadworks and bottles from skips found down the laneways beside pubs. There was definitely an almost festive atmosphere, even at the height of the rioting. Most of the onlookers, if they were Irish, seemed to be sympathetic to the rioters i.e. little sympathy for the Gardai, and anti-march. There were many, many foreigners present, and they mostly seemed to get a big kick out of it. Walking down the quays later, I heard an English woman on the phone, excitedly relating to her friend everything she had seen “It was mental , so it was, they went crazy, …etc. etc.” The best and most impartial account of the riot, and the most convincing analysis of it, is available on the indymedia.ie web site. Highly recommended.

    Susan McKay has taken some flak in earlier posts, quite undeservedly, IMO. I have read her book on Northern Protestants, and I think that it is fair to say that a major theme of this important book, a theme that runs through maybe 90% or more of the interviews that make up the book is: DENIAL. Ulster Protestannts are to a great extent in a state of complete denial of the injustices and downright horrors that were inflicted on the Nationalist minority over many decades. This denial comes through in interview after interview. And for pointing out this fact in her book and in much of her journalism, Susan is branded a Lundy and a Sinn Fein fellow traveller. I don’t see NI ever moving on until both side can acknowledge the hurt they have inflicted on each other. From what I’ve seen up to now, the Unionist/Loyalist side has much farther to go in this respect than the Nationalist side.

    Garry

  • willis

    fair_deal

    I’m getting a sense here that evidence and arguement is pretty low on your list of priorities. I read her column last Saturday on the day of the riot and her points about the Kingsmills massacre and the mis-use of Parliamentary privilege seemed well based in evidence.

    willis

  • fair_deal

    Willis/Garry

    Sorry Willis but i’m having multiple debates so i am not able to focus on this one as much as it deserves (i’m also sorting out my first slugger blogs plus this thing called work). Please accept my apologises for this discourtesy

    Susan McKay does not claim to be a Unionist. She simply states she is from a northern Protestant background. It is when she says the relationship between Britain and Ireland is the same as a rapist and his victim that makes people believe she has a republican analysis of the situation.

    “I don’t see NI ever moving on until both side can acknowledge the hurt they have inflicted on each other. From what I’ve seen up to now, the Unionist/Loyalist side has much farther to go in this respect than the Nationalist side.”

    The victims groups who went to Dublin on saturday did acknowlegde the hurt of others. They laid wreaths to victims of the Troubles either side of the border including the Dublin and Monaghan bombs. They also wanted to lay a wreath at the site of the Dublin bomb but were advised against it by the Garda.

    http://www.u.tv/newsroom/indepth.asp?id=71059&pt=n

    The response they got on their first attempt to outline their hurt they had suffered and after acknowledging the pain of others – violence.

  • nicholas Pugachev

    When is Mick going to do something, about what i assume are “sock puppets” posting on this site ?

  • nP

    It’s not sock puppets that are the problem, it’s a software glitch.

    After 10 or so comments on each page, comments get attributed to those who post earlier.

    Look on it as a new game – Guess the Commentator!

    Posted by Gerry O’Sullivan

    (In case this gets attributed to Nathan, George or fair_deal)

    p.s. if it bothers you so much, can I suggest making a donation for ongoing development of this site? The paypal button’s on the left.