Anyone but the perpetrators…

Dublin_Riots_250206 (18)Newton Emerson argues that it is time for the Republic to demonstrate to Northern Ireland the importance of firm application of the law in a settled peaceful society. He begins by citing a suspended sentence handed down by an Northern Ireland judge, in recognition of the possibility that but for the special circumstances of the troubles they might not have used “a replica machine gun while “protecting” an Orange arch”. He notes the illogical reasoning of some of the media response to the riots and an apparent enthusiasm for blaming the Minister of Justice rather than individual rioters themselves:

What matters is the integrity of our response. Do we blame society or do we blame the individual? Something about state broadcasters in particular seems to attract the blame society brigade. On its first bulletin following the Dublin riots, RTE went straight from interviewing its injured chief news correspondent Charlie Bird to asking if the Republic’s justice minister Michael McDowell was responsible. The fact that Mr McDowell had criticised RTE’s overt editorialising the week before was presumably a coincidence. The fact that policing Dublin is entirely the responsibility of assistant Garda commissioner Alan McHugh was apparently an irrelevance. Still, how admirable that RTE nearly sacrificed one of its own without losing sight of its usual agenda.

He posits his own set of questions:

Why do public sector elites so often advance this type of thinking? Is it the guilty condescension of an urban middle class that expects no better from the lower orders? Or is it the moral panic of the insecure, unsure of the vital powers they hold in trust?

And he notes, even racist beatings were given something of a bye in the post riot analysis: “Even the clearly racist beating of an Asian shopkeeper, captured in a series of horrifying photographs, hasn’t dimmed the sneaky view of perpetrator as victim”.

He returns to Northern Ireland to finish, and argues that empty gestures to Love Ulster would miss the mark:

What would impress everyone in Northern Ireland is a demonstration of what we are sadly lacking – the rigorous enforcement of the rule of law by a strong and self-confident state. It is unreasonable to expect that any society will be without its disaffected elements. But it is not unreasonable to expect that crime will be punished. If the courts in Dublin now show the courts in Belfast how violence should be dealt with then the vast majority of unionists will take heart.

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