Is one side as bad as the other?

Jude Collins takes exception to the media reporting and condemnatory statements on the murder of Michael McIlveen, noting how the staple response of ‘one-side-is-as-bad-as-the-other’ runs somewhat contrary to the facts.


    any white person who responded with the “I condemn racism from both sides” or “whites and blacks are equally racist” would have be laughed out of the room. There would have instantly been accused of excusing racism.

    Not surprising, given the disparity of attacks on whites by blacks, and the context in which the situation happened.

    why are similar comments common in Nor Iron

    See my last paragraph.

  • Alan Law

    I not quite sure where this debate is going? When did I join a side? No-one had even the decency to ask if I had a preference. Maybe they’re allocated at birth and you have nor choice or chance to change sides?
    The murder of Michael McIlveen is being turned into a political dogfight which is nasty and unnecessary. The futility of the entire mess beggars belief, a group of thugs attack and kill a child, his life is gone and so is their own. Someone must surely have an explanation. Was it a random attack? or was it planned?

  • missfitz


    Not trying to make anything of this, but this is the Thomas Devlin website, and they state that his killing was not ‘sectarian’ in the true sense of the word.

    Mindless, gutless, unprovoked, random, tragic…. all of those things.

    That website is a real eye opener, and should serve as a wake up call to anyone who takes this less than deadly seriously

  • heck

    Wasn’t there another young man beaten to death in north Antrim because he was a catholic (Portrush I think) called Chris or Christopher Witson or Wilson?

    I think, TAFKABO, my comparison of Antrim with the American south is a good one with Ballymena being the equivalent of Montgomery Alabama.

    You have the racism (sectarianism), the rednecks (loyalists), the lynchings, (beating Catholics to death), the religious fundamentalism (Paisley), the KKK marches (Orange order) and the attachment to bigoted symbols like the confederate flag (graffiti at Harryville catholic church)

    Yea black and white racism are the same.

  • Occasional Commentator

    It’s never that simple. For example, I would think that many republicans would have sympathy with many aspects of Orangeism, in particular because of the fact that (at the time of it’s founding at least) Protestant countries tended to be a bit more secular.

  • Pattila the Hun

    “What answer? What point?”

    I know I’m going to probably regret this, but here goes anyway.

    Sectarianism according to Wikipedia is
    “The rigid adherence to a particular sect or party or denomination. It often implies discrimination, denunciation, or violence against those outside the sect.”

    You in your post of last night said that “Protestants continue to be sectarian”
    No qualification. All protestants.

    In your next post expressed your opinion that a particular presenter on the Talkback programme may have followed a particular agenda on the Devlin murder, solely because of the fact that he (the presenter) may have been protestant and the victim was a Catholic.

    You then imply in today’s post that solely because of what you perceive to be my own religious beliefs ( not actually disclosed at any point), I would thus “may be” justify the sectarian murders of Catholics for “God and Ulster”.

    Can you now see the irony and contradictions of your various comments or do I need to spell it out further?

    I have a suspicion that you and your mate “Harry” are loyalist trolls, if you are you should be ashamed of yourselves. If I’m wrong, the comments from both of you over the last couple of days are amongst the most depressing that I’ve read on Slugger for some time.
    Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

  • Resolve

    FAO Pattila

    Well set out. I am new to this site, but i have to ask… Would I be right in assuming, from the last sentence of your comment above, that the level of debate typical of this site is higher than what can be seen from this one thread? If so, it might keep me interested… If not…. this is the last you will hear of me!

  • Pattila the Hun

    “Would I be right in assuming, from the last sentence of your comment above, that the level of debate typical of this site is higher than what can be seen from this one thread?”

    I think ” highly variable” is an honest description of the standard at the minute.

    Over the time that I’ve been reading Slugger I’ve read a lot of really high quality arguments between people with diametrically opposed political views.

    They’re a bit rarer on the ground at the minute, but it’s still worth hanging around because it’s the only site in NI that’s still capable of providing that kind of intelligent political discourse.

  • IJP

    Missfitz and Resolve

    Some very interesting points in response there.

    Resolve is, in my experience, basically right concerning pronouncements. This is partly, I would suggest, because Unionists often still see themselves as “defending a position” (I wish I was given a pound for every time I heard a Unionist talk about “the good old days”), whereas Nationalists see themselves as moving towards a brighter future – therefore coming across as more confident and willing to compromise because things are seen to be “going their way” anyway.

    However, pronouncements are merely “words”. Getting sectarian poison out of society takes more than “words”, it takes action.

    Getting sectarian poison out of politics would be a start, I would suggest…

  • missfitz

    How do we take sectarianism out of either politics or society?

    If this was a problem that started in the past 50 or 100 years, we could look at the root cause, and try to treat it.

    The battle between catholics and protestants in Ireland goes back hundreds of years. As we all know, the OO was founded for the defence of protestantism.

    The cultures and identities of each tribe has been separate and apart, with very little bridge building done, with notable excpetions over the years.

    Terence O’Neill was castigated for trying to reach out the hand of sharing. Indeed Craig tried to build an inclusive state, but gave up after 10 years due to internal feuding and reverted to an Orange mentality.

    As I have said before, the only way to resolve it is from the top with leadership and from the bottom with integration in schools. Even if we cant get as far as full integration, we should be making more efforts at bringing kids and teachers together for out of school projects.

    Its easy to want to kill a faceless enemy, much harder to demonise someone who is your friend. Michael McIlveen was murdered by intolerance and hatred, by a void in our system and a failure to lead.

    I’ve read some interesting comments about the situation in Ballymena, along the lines that the younger generation of catholics dont try to hide their religious background to the same extent as their parents. That should continue, we should all be who we want to be and hope that the day will come when that badge of identity isnt like a target painted on your back

  • missfitz

    Oh dear, I’ve done it again with the fancy footwork and left the bold on.

    Does anyone know how to turn it off?

  • Resolve

    Good points there Misfitz… The historical legacy of secatarianism in Ireland certainly makes its erradication more difficult. And I agree with you that leadership is crucial if this is ever going to be brought about (see my last post)… With respect, IJP, i honestly don’t share your opinion that political pronouncements are simply “words” (though I know what you meant).. This is why:

    The word “Leader” is not, in my understanding, a synonym for “political representative”. A Leader is someone who does what is right, even when its not in the interests of his own people (though, naturally, he will still be an advocate for their consideration). We don’t have (and have not had) many in this part of the Islands.

    For many of the non-thinking thugs that resort to sectarian attacks (like the murder of Michael McIlveen) political representatives do their thinking for them. Representing, in their eyes, the ultimate embodiment of Unionist orthodoxy, their media-communicated views on any issue from the most general (e.g. Power-sharing) to the most specific (Orange Parade in ‘X’ Town) forms the basis for their standpoint.

    Of course, I am not saying that the likes of Ian Paisley makes the comments he makes simply to consolidate and perpetuate his own political power. He has wholehearted conviction in his views (far too much so, in fact, and that is one of the scariest things)… However, in relation to issues such as sectarianism, if he really believed that it is our number one long-term problem (which it is… as an agency-level problem, it has the potential to outlast any structural change) he could create a sea-change in attitude with what you described as “merely words”. The fact that he chooses not to is my concern. He will not be around forever, and it will be a long time before a man with his sort of “charismatic authority” (with the influence he has across Unionist NI) comes again.

    McIlveen’s murder is a disgrace. Yet, when one thinks of how Robert McCartney’s killing led to the addressing of serious concerns within Republican areas (issues of paramilitary control, etc.) it is not beyond the bounds of hope (though perhaps expectation) that this awful murder could lead us (politicians and public alike) to address the serious issue of sectarianism. And it is the best time to address it. We may assume that these thugs have no consciences. I assure you, conscience is in there somewhere. But when the only strong condemnations come from the other side, these consciences are, once again, successfully repressed. The inexcusable is excused.

    It’s time Ian Paisley etc. realised their responsibility in the occurance of events like this, and did something about it.

  • Nationalist

    Patilla the Hun

    “You in your post of last night said that “Protestants continue to be sectarian”
    No qualification. All protestants.”

    Why didn’t you use the entire quote “Protestants continue to be sectarian and children continue to die”. If I meant all protestants it would follow that I meant all children, no qualification. So, feel free to misquote, misrepresent me if you want, but it doesn’t do much for an intelligent debate.

    “In your next post expressed your opinion that a particular presenter on the Talkback programme may have followed a particular agenda on the Devlin murder, solely because of the fact that he (the presenter) may have been protestant and the victim was a Catholic.”

    No I didn’t, you liar. I asked if he was a protestant. I don’t know what he is. But he’s stating as fact that the murder of Thomas Devlin wasn’t sectarian. He’s a frigging journalist, a radio presenter, hosting a debate about sectarianism. You’d think he’d know the subject a bit better. It only happened 9 months ago. Is he a Protestant? Is it just too difficult for him to acknowledge that Thomas Devlin was murdered by fellow protestants simply because he was a catholic?

    “..or do I need to spell it out further?”. Yes you do, because I simply parodied your sectarian knee jerk outburst. I swapped the “brave fight” for a united Ireland with the “noble cause” of keeping Ulster British. I threw your own point back to you. You say “La Mon” I say “McGurks”. My point is – so what? Anybody, catholic or protestant, can list of an inventory of sectarian atrocities, it isn’t intelligent.


    “Not trying to make anything of this, but this is the Thomas Devlin website, and they state that his killing was not ‘sectarian’ in the true sense of the word.”

    You’re not correct in your interpretation. In the bit you linked to, Brian Rowan, says this murder “has not come to be labelled sectarian”. That certainly doesn’t mean he’s saying it wasn’t sectarian. Everybody who is familair with what happened knows it was.

    Read on down the page you linked to. Brian Rowan goes on to say that Thomas was a catholic who was murdered by a protestant. He says “Thomas’s killer is known, known like so many other killers throughout the course of Northern Ireland’s “Troubles””. He is being protected by some and others are too afraid to open their mouths. Why would that happen?

    Thomas killers are “reputed” to be from Mount Vernon UVF. Now, if they had only been interested in killing a teenager that night they could have walked around their own area and picked one, or drove 100 miles away. But they looked for a victim in a neighbouring catholic area. It was sectarian, believe me.

    Thomas Devlin was a catholic who went to a protestant school, he had a lot of protestant friends. His mother is Welsh, Northern Ireland’s sectarian attitudes are not part of their world. They want the killers brought to justice, they need a bit of help. The only place they can get that is in from loyalists. The message on the website is basically saying – politics and religion have got nothing to do with this – these are just evil child-killers, they need to be brought to justice in everybodys interests. That’s the issue as it stands, it’s not difficult to understand.

    Everybody knows it was sectarian. Apart from the presenter on Radio Ulster who may or may not be a protestant. I suspect he is and that’s part of the reason why this murder has failed to register on his sectarianism radar.

  • Occasional Commentator

    bold off there you go.

    Just put </b> in your post.

  • Occasional Commentator

    I think I need another one.

  • Right. Let’s pray to Our Lady that that closes the bold. Can we agree on the original and ongoing sectarian nature of the six counties and that people like Paisley stirred up passions for decades whilst others silently sneered or tossed their pennies off Derry’s walls? Can we then agree that people like Paisley cannot be part of any workable solution?

    Can we also agree on reactionaries breeding equal and opposite reactionaries, as James Connolly predicted. It would be difficult for social climbers with bombs to have no sectarian baggage. It would also be difficult to live along the fault lines in a sectarian state and not do as the Romans do. I doubt Glasgow Rangers will have too many fans in West Belfast next season.

  • Sam

    One can only expect denial and dissembling from the usual quarters. Most of all the PSNI, the BBC and ‘law-abiding’ unionists who take their guiding line from those sources. The RUC never could seem to figure out the motive for so many loyalist attacks on Catholics, and there aren’t many unionists who’d ever accept a nationalist’s word on it.

    Brian Rowan:
    [i]”He was stabbed five times on a street…a Catholic who was murdered by a Protestant, but this was not one of the many killings in Northern Ireland that have come to be labelled as “sectarian”.
    “This was not a murder that was planned over a period of weeks and months…not what we call a paramilitary killing. It was a random attack on Thomas…
    “We live in a place where there is still a culture of violence, and, among some, a mindset that tells them they can murder and get away with it.”[/i]

    According to the BBC’s security correspondent a “sectarian” killing has to planned far in advance and/or be called a paramilitary action – ignoring the fact that he’s talking about someone killed by loyalist paramilitaries. It’s not very credible, it seems to be dissembling certain facts about the paramilitary killer who Rowan admits is ‘known’.

    The culture is a product of collusion between police & loyalists, which tells them they’ll get away with it. The police and most media will even help to obscure the nature of the crime.

    []Daily Ireland[/url]: [b]Man in court on ammo charges[/b]
    by Ciarán Barnes
    A Belfast man questioned about the murder of a Catholic schoolboy appeared in the city’s magistrates’ court yesterday.

    The 21-year-old was questioned by detectives following the brutal murder of 15-year-old Thomas Devlin.

    Members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) from the nearby loyalist Mount Vernon estate are believed to have stabbed the teenager. However, the PSNI has consistently refused to described the killing as sectarian.
    In the hours after the murder, the PSNI raided a number of properties close to the murder scene.
    Ammunition was discovered in one of the premises. John McCracken was charged with possessing the ammunition with intent to endanger life.
    Despite questioning four people about the Devlin murder, the PSNI has yet to charge anyone.
    The man believed to have murdered the schoolboy is currently behind bars. At the time of the killing he was on bail for his involvement in a serious sectarian assault.
    The suspect, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was subsequently sentenced to a jail term after pleading guilty in court. Neighbours of the north Belfast man said it was common knowledge that he stabbed Thomas.

    [b]PSNI man’s brother involved in murder[/b]
    Ciarán Barnes
    The brother of a serving PSNI officer has been implicated in the loyalist murder of a Catholic teenager.
    The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is being connected to the murder of 15-year-old Thomas Devlin in north Belfast last year. It is believed he helped clean the killers’ clothes.
    Detectives have obtained mobile telephone records linking him to a woman also suspected of covering up the murder. The pair exchanged calls a short time after the killing.
    It is understood they allowed those responsible to shower in a flat they once shared. The man and woman used to be partners.

    Two men from the nearby loyalist Mount Vernon estate are believed to have murdered him. One of the men was subsequently sent to jail for his involvement in a vicious sectarian attack on a Catholic teenager.
    Loyalist sources in the Mount Vernon area told Daily Ireland at least five people were involved in the murder and cover-up.
    “The police know the names of the two people who stabbed Thomas Devlin,” said one man.
    “And they know the names of the others who helped clean their clothes.
    “They are the scum of the earth. Everyone is praying the police catch them”
    Some of those involved in the murder have strong links to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).
    One of the suspects has a close relative currently in jail for his involvement in a loyalist extortion racket.
    In December of last year the UVF considered shooting those involved in the murder.
    During the last eight months the PSNI has questioned eight people and searched in excess of 20 premises in connection with the killing. Despite overwhelming evidence the PSNI has steadfastly refused to describe the murder as sectarian.
    I don’t think it can be relabelled as merely ‘random’ when a gang of loyalists go out to kill any random Catholic. Indeed, that highlights the purely sectarian nature of the crime. You’d have to be PSNI or unionist to remain deaf, dumb and blind to that.

  • English

    This article is accurate, because for the two years I have been living here Protestants have been attacking Catholics, and it’s not surprising there have been fatalities. If anything I am surprised that Republicans have not done more to protect Catholics – they have maintained the peace in the face of severe provocation. When we reach a situation of joint decision making between Dublin and London the Loyalist Paramilitries may increase their level of attacks on Catholics again as their means of expression.

    Both sides are as bad as each other historically, but during my two years in Northern Ireland it is Protestants who have been doing all the damage.


  • Pattila the Hun


    ““..or do I need to spell it out further?”. Yes you do, because I simply parodied your sectarian knee jerk outburst”

    So, sadly it looks like you’re genuine and not a loyalist troll.

    With regards the rest of your comments, I’m going to be magnanimous and let you have the last word.

    If anyone has been unfortunate enough to have been following our debate, we’ll let them draw their own conclusions about what you’ve said at these various times:

    May 13, 2006 @ 01:55 AM,
    May 13, 2006 @ 02:03 AM
    May 13, 2006 @ 02:35 PM
    May 14, 2006 @ 02:25 AM.

    fair enough?

  • Nationalist

    Pattila the Hun

    “..we’ll let them draw their own conclusions about what you’ve said at these various times:

    May 13, 2006 @ 01:55 AM,
    May 13, 2006 @ 02:03 AM
    May 13, 2006 @ 02:35 PM
    May 14, 2006 @ 02:25 AM.”

    WTF? Is this another one of those random unionist things, like decommissioning, that applies to nationalists only – in this case I am only allowed to make my point at certain times of the day and those times to be of your choosing?


    Thanks for the research and the light shed on the debate.


    Thanks for the outside perspective.

  • IJP


    Interesting points and I doubt we’re really at odds.

    To play devil’s advocate (my usual role on this forum, you’ll find!), the risk with ‘just words’ is that people begin to think they are something just because they say they are – in some ways, that is even worse than not even claiming to be what they’re not.

    As Sir Humphrey memorably remarked in Yes, Prime Minister: “Things don’t change just because people are keen on them! Neville Chamberlain was keen on peace!”

    So let’s take the aforementioned Nationalist’s line: they talked grandly of ‘accepting identities’ and so on. But is there really any evidence that northern Nationalist leaders have come to terms with the reality of ‘respecting British (and indeed unionist) identity in Ireland’? What we actually have is attacks on British symbols, unclarified assumptions about the inevitability of a ‘United Ireland’, and disparaging remarks in private about the British Empire – all of which may seem quite reasonable to Nationalist ears, but they’re not in line with ‘mutual respect’, and they are frankly alarming to people they are supposed to be ‘mutually respecting’.

    Add into that the theologicial distinction in the background of Protestants and Catholics (‘salvation by works’ etc), and it becomes questionable whether ‘words’ constitute any type of advance at all (that goes back to our own ‘side’s’ ‘value judgements’).

    So while not at all disagreeing with what you say, a much more significant advance would be the acceptance (in word and deed) that ‘mutual respect’ is actually bloody difficult – and perhaps even a serious questioning of whether it is possible or even desirable for the competing ideals of ‘Nationalism’ and ‘Unionism’ to ‘mutually respect’ one another at all.

  • Resolve


    I can see that we are going to have some constructive discussions in the future. You are right about our perspectives not being at odds.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    Disparaging remarks in private? Not at all, I’ll cheerfully state in public that the British Empire was a murderously psychotic rampage for loot; that modern Brits should be thoroughly ashamed of the carry-on of their ancestors; and that thinking Imperialism is a Good Thing is the sort of notion humanity can well do without.

    If Unionism wants to get all precious and “alarmed” by the simple fact that nobody else in Ireland shares their awestruck admiration for theft and murder on a colossal scale, well tough. People have different opinions, which might include the opinion that Unionism is, frankly, wrongheaded. Get over it.

  • Resolve

    FAO Ciaran Irvine

    “Modern Brits should be thoroughly ashamed of their ancestors”

    I suppose, by that logic, you would find anti-Semitism quite justified, in the eyes of a Christian at least, because their “ancestors” killed Christ?

    Can people really be blamed for the acts of their ancestors?

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Jude Collins is a one-eyed reporter who writes for republican rag, “Daily Ireland” or more accurately “Daily B1gotry”.

    I agree that Ballymena has a sectarian problem, and hate-filled, mindless Protestant youths are part of the problem, but republican groups with bases in areas like Dunclug and Fisherwick, such as the Continuity IRA, is as much, if not more to blame, than loyalist youths for sparking the flames that ignited when Michael McIlveen was cruelly and barbarically murdered.

    This group’s local North Antrim/South Londonderry Commander is Liam Averill. This man is on the run from the law, having escaped from the Maze in 1997 after being incarcerated for the double-murder of 2 innocent Protestants in the town of Garvagh, only 10 miles from where I live. He is currently living and working without apprehension in Ballybofey, County Donegal. Why is this man not re-arrested, particularly when his CIRA “brigade” is so heavily involved in inciting hatred in the Ballymena area?

    The security forces should answer these questions and the media and press should think before tarring Ballymena Protestants with the deeply hurtful sectarian brush, as they are only inflaming the situation further.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Fair Deal’s statistics tell a completely different story than is being espoused on Slugger by nationalist/republican sympathisers. They show that Ballymena Roman Catholics have carried out DOUBLE, I repeat DOUBLE, the amount of sectarian attacks in a 6-month period last year than Protestants in the area.

    Statistics don’t lie…

  • Ciaran Irvine

    Blamed? No…in the sense of having sanctions applied for something people long-dead did. But.

    Having a sense that just maybe Imperialism wasn’t such a good idea and maybe Britain is better off without an Empire and that if the circumstances arose in the future where Britain had an opportunity to throw its weight around in a similar manner, it should reflect on its own history and decline the temptation – that counts as “shame” enough in my book. And I do believe that the great majority of people in Britain today would concur. They know Imperialism is/was fundamentally wrong.

    You can’t punish people for what their ancestors did, but at the same time saying that something is “all in the past” and has nothing at all to do with the present, or has no salutory lessons for people today, is equally nonsensical.

    We are all where we are today because of the actions and beliefs of those who came before us. The past does shape us, for good or ill. And sensible people learn from the past, both the achievements to be celebrated and emulated; and the dark terrible mistakes and events to be avoided.

    Empire falls firmly into the latter camp, and I think most people would agree. If Empire enthusiasts find it distressing to have their beloved Empire scorned in public, I have little sympathy.

  • Resolve

    Good answer to my devil’s advocate.

  • Concerned Loyalist writes:

    [i]”Fair Deal’s statistics tell a completely different story than is being espoused on Slugger by nationalist/republican sympathisers. They show that Ballymena Roman Catholics have carried out DOUBLE, I repeat DOUBLE, the amount of sectarian attacks in a 6-month period last year than Protestants in the area.

    Statistics don’t lie…”[/i]

    Now, the original post was somewhat ambiguous as it did not clearly indicate whether the attacks were on Catholics/Protestants or done by Catholics/Protestants.

    I did a little checking on the web site cited and it was soon clear that the number from the BBC were attacks on Catholics/Protestants.

    Fair Deal also clarified the point in a later post when it became evident that some posters were reading them as attacks by Catholics/Protestamts. It seems that Concerned Loyaist did not read or pay attention to the clarification.

    So there were 28 attacks on Catholics in the six-month period and 14 attacks by Catholics in the same period.

    So, since CL insists that statistics don’t lie, I guess, then, that Protestants are more at fault here than Catholics.

    Now, that doesn’t make either side right but it does seem to indicate that the problem of sectarian violence is more the responsibility of the Protestant cpmmunity in Ballymena than the Catholic community.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    There are more attacks carried out by Protestants, but in predominantly Protestant Ballymena there is a higher ratio of attacks-population percentage by members of the Roman Catholic community if you consider there are by far fewer RC’s in Ballymena than Protestants. If I was asked for an informed estimate I would say Ballymena would be broken down into 80% Protestant, 20% Roman Catholic but Roman Catholics carried out just over 33% of the attacks…


    Acolumnist in the respected Daily Ireland believes the RUC/PSNI are withholding the true figures relating to sectarian atacks on Catholics in Ballymena and other Bible belt hellholes. Of course, who would beleive the PSNI might be a little bit one eyed or the DUP heroes of Harryville would stoop so low?
    People like Tom McGurk excepted. And he is a Taig, so enough said MCGURK-qqqs=commentandanalysis-qqqid=14370-qqqx=1.asp