Finger-pointing or problem solving?

The pattern of sectarian attacks in Ballymean has already seen the loss of one innocent life. However, when the PSNI Ballymena DCU Commander, Terry Shevlin, said sectarian attacks in Ballymena were a “two-way affair” his comments were attacked by Sinn Fein representatives, Monica Digney and Philip McGuigan.

The PSNI have now released figures of the sectarian attacks in Ballymena DCU between April 05 to March 06 . There were 133 sectarian incidents, 57% of the victims were Roman Catholic and 43% were Protestant. Nationalist representatives (SDLP and Sinn Fein) are refusing to accept what the latest statistics show.

These new figures still mean that in the Ballymena DCU, which is 21% Catholic, a Catholic faces a 2.7 greater chance of being a victim of a sectarian attack than a Protestant. However, the last released figures of atacks were for 1 March 2005 – 31st August 2005, detailed 42 sectarian incidents, 67% of victims were Catholic and 33% were Protestant, so it appears attacks on Protestants have grown.

However, why is a statistical debate the priority for some civic leaders in Ballymena right now?

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps Ballymena police are reaping what they have sown in terms of playing down sectarian incidents stemming from the catholic community in the past?
    And truly .. Daily Ireland .. a source????
    Simple truth? Teenage catholic boys in Ballymena are – to use the vernacular – game as feck.
    Teenage prod boys in Ballymena are in larger numbers but also ‘game as feck’
    Both sides, when they get a person down, have a level of viciousness which goes well beyond the common ‘digging session of the past’.
    This is essentially a social problem. Yeah, I know fingers can be pointed at the background/schools of the latest accused in the sad tragedy which has affected this town …
    But the truth is that most people are quite content ot go through life in a polite (albeit silently sectarian manner) .. as they do throughout the world.
    Statistics don’t mean diddly squat. How people are raised in the home does. I would never EVER allow my son to wear a Rangers shirt.
    Nor would I think there is anything unifying in glorifying either side of the Old Firm.

  • Occasional Commentator

    fair deal: “However, why is a statistical debate the priority for some civic leaders in Ballymena right now?”

    Why did the policeman say it? Does he not know any better? If he was asked for the figures he could have given them, and perhaps discussed the methodology, but he shouldn’t have tried to interpret them too much.

    You don’t have to agree or disagree with him or the politicians to see that this is an improper political comment from a policeman. Some politicians are just as quick to make inappropriate comments about ongoing criminal investigations.

    The politicians and the policeman are just as bad as each other! 🙂

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Why is it wrong to show that the problem in Ballymena is no different to anywhere else and that sectarianism exists on both sides of the divide?

    I would have thought it was the duty of the PSNI to record and distribute such statistics on this and any other crime. It is not political comment to produce figures for crime and then comment of the figures by way of interpretation.

    If the point of the criticism is that the figures or the interpretation of the figures were wrong or biased then that is a very different matter and evidence should be produced to support those criticisms.

    We do not live in a police state or dictatorship and are therefore entitled to know all about the extent of crime in our local areas and how it is being policed – that is democracy.

    The attititude that says if we bury our heads in the sand it will all go away is wrong. Just as the nationalist and republican politicians who were guilty of branding the loyalist youths in Ballymena as the exclusively sectarian group were wrong and could be viewed as having created the potential to provoke a reaction from republican / nationalist youths based on their mistruths.

    What I think the PSNI have tried to do is bring some balance to the problem and hopefully to start to find a way out of it where both sides can live in some sort of harmony.

    Ballymena needs truth and solutions not mistruths and innuendo, just as do many other towns in Northern Ireland where political spin in both communities has been allowed to cloud the path to solutions for too long.

  • Anonymous

    1. Occasional Commentator – he said it because he was asked for the figures and the truth must out and therefore it is not inappropriate and I don’t think the two way comment is interpretation it is common sense. 2. The simple fact of the matter in Ballymena is contrary to the recent press is that both sides are as bad as each other. However it appears that SF & SDLP are only interested in statistics or facts that support their MOPE spin on recent events in Ballymena and these facts say differently. No unionist politician however is now going to expound the ridiculous theory that this is to do with the attitude of the Council I assume as Declan O’Loan’s allegation that the lack of responsibility or power sharing on the council contributes to these attacks is somewhat damaged by the facts unless it provokes catholics to attack protestants. It is a theory that is also undermined by the fact that these attacks continued and indeed increased when the same PJ McAvoy was Deputy Mayor. Maybe before attaching blame to others SF & SDLP should look at themselves and their creation of parading issues in Ballymena which are entirely of their own making…..

  • Harry

    1/ The figures given by the PSNI should be broken down into each actual incident to see if the level of violence and sectarianism is actually comparable. Given that one person (a nationalist) was seriously stabbed and then the next week a child (nationalist) was murdered, nationalists have every right to demand that those saying ‘both sides are as bad as each other’ are challenged and forced to prove, beyond doubt, their contentions.

    2/ It is telling that the debate has turned round on nationalists again, as if they have something to answer for before any real questions are demanded of loyalists and their political leaders in Ballymena over the recent violence. I am aware of 1 attempted murder and 1 actual murder of nationalists – how dare people then try to turn this around on nationalists as if they are to blame. Disgraceful!

    3/ It’s noticeable that reports appeared prominently in the paper declaring that Michael McIlveen was thinking of joining the rtish Army and also saying his family had been put out of Belfast by the IRA. Clearly the powers that be feel it more important to generate confusion and disunity amongst nationalists than they do to analyse and question the personalities and actions that characterise the peculiar viciousness of loyalism in that area. There was clearly a conscious move on the part of the media to defuse anger directed against loyalism over this incident and an attempt to deflect attention elsewhere. Nationalism is running out of patience that even today, in 2006, it is expected to be depowered each and every time it rightfully asserts itself.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Got it in one Harry.

    For these people, the war will never be over.

    And what is the life of a fenian to them anyway.

  • briso

    I dispute your maths. I make it 5 times more likely a Catholic will be a victim of a sectarian attack.

    (57/21) / (43/79)

    For the other period shown in 2005, I make it 7.6 times more likely.

    (67/21) / (33/79)

    Perhaps an expert could comment?

  • Frustrated Democat

    Harry and Prince Eoghan

    You are a good example of burying your head in the sand. The problem exists in both sections of the community not just with the loyalist youths and arguing over who did what exact % is pointless. Until that is fully accepted then there will be no solutions.

    It is by chance that the 2 most serious victims were Catholics, to try and categorise sectarian violence in terms of the outcome serves no uselful purpose. Whether the assailant holds a baseball bat or a hurley stick or any other weapon matters not as the outcome from the use of any of them has the potential to be very serious even if in most cases it isn’t.

    To point out that all political leaders in Ballymena have a job to do is not to shift blame from one side to the other it is to say all sides are not blameless and therefore all sides have to be part of the solution. The recent statements from Sinn Fein and the SDLP have not been always helpful in the situation and the the DUP do not help by their sectarian staemnets and inability to share power in Ballymena. The UUP have not come to grips with it either and are now largely anonomous in their much reduced numbers.

    And for Harry to say that the media protraying Michael McIlveen’s family as some kind of ‘quasi Brits’ was an attempt to lessen Republican support is pathetic in the extreme unless what was printed was untrue, and I have seen no one try to dispute it.

    He was, from what I can, see a normal 16 year old, who had ambitions for his future that were not related to any type of sectarian up bringing. To attempt to infer that he and his family could possibly be thought of as somehow less worthy of support because of that demeans not only the McIlveen family but also all people who act and think in a non sectarian, non republican way.

  • briso

    Could someone please point out where I am wrong or alternatively correct the original article? I say it is flat wrong. The correct figure is 5 times more likely, even accepting fully the PSNI figures.
    This tends to support the proposition that in Ballymena, both sides are not the same. Whether that gets us anywhere of course, is another question altogether.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Briso

    You can argue the figures to suit your case or someone else can argue them to suit their case.

    1. What is Ballymena? It is the town is it the council area or part of it?

    2. You can argue that using a figure of between 20 and 25% being nationalist (depending on 1.) that that percentage carries out twice as many sectarian attacks as its percentage share of the population should statistically warrant.

    3. You can argue that if you are in the 25% you are 3 times more likely to suffer an attack than if the you are in the 75% (see below).

    All are correct depending how you look at them.

    The simple analysis is there are sectarian youths in Ballymena who gain some sort of perverted satifaction out of beating hell out of the opposition with whatever comes to hand.

    Statistics, dammed lies and statistics matter not one bit when people on all sides are suffering from a lack of leadership in their communities instead of bickering over what % did what and looking for a % to suit their case.

    * Think on this, since there are 3 times as many ‘loyalists’ there should be 3 times as many ‘loyalist’ sectarian bigots and they should carry out 75 % of the crime and ‘republicans’ should have 25% of the bigots and carry out 25% of the crime. However since there are 3 times as many loyalists they can only carry out their violence on the 25% that are non loyalist therefore on a pure statistical count republicans will be 3 times as likely to be assaulted as a loyalist.

  • briso

    FD, your points are wholly taken. Indeed, if you have one black family in a town, they will be much more likely to be on the receiving end of racist violence from whites than their neighbours will be from blacks. As I say, point taken.

    However, my two points remain.

    1: The original maths by FD is plain wrong. Catholics are 5 or 7.6 times (depending on the time period) more likely to be attacked than Protestants.

    2: This almost certainly explains the perception of Catholics that they are much more the victims of this crime in Ballymena than Protestants.