the best we can hope for?

Over at the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog, John Lloyd has been taking issue with the Ken Loach film that has been causing a few heated moments among even our own level-headed commenters, but that’s not the aspect I wanted to focus on *ahem* There’s one section of his article that I think is worth highlighting in particular, during what he describes as “the second reason the film’s real significance lies in the present”.It’s his description of what has happened here over the last two decades that I found interesting:

Yet what has happened in the north over the past two decades, and is still happening, is a slow accommodation of the two main religious/political communities – after a campaign in which murder and violence on both sides have made such an accommodation very hard. There is no great cause here, save that of peaceful (if fractious) negotiation; there is no victory for republicanism, no surrender by the British government, that can bring forth a better state of affairs.

The two main communities are now represented by their harder politicians – in the Democratic Unionist party and Sinn Féin. Neither will easily trust, nor even talk to, the other. The most courageous leader, the one who did the most to make the Belfast agreement work, David Trimble, sacrificed himself and his party on the altar of an accommodation that went too far for his grassroots.

Nothing much can be expected soon. The best we can hope for is that there will be no return to overt, inter-communal fighting. And that best can be achieved only by very large amounts of hypocrisy on the part of everyone: in pretending to forget that those who now run Sinn Féin have been leaders of a terrorist gang, and that the main characters in the small loyalist political parties are themselves free of all stain. It also seems to mean tolerating the godfathers of the estates, the continuing separation of the communities and the complete stasis of a political system still run, in the end, from London.

What is left over from the campaign begun by the IRA is not just distrust and bitterness: it is also the now-ingrained practice of intra-communal violence, as both republican and loyalist godfathers squeeze their communities for “protection” and use them as the first client base for drug pushing (an early example of “for-profit terrorism” of the kind described by Justine Rosenthal of the Council on Global Terrorism).

It’s something that I’ve been focussing on recently, and the for-profit terrorism link that I attempted to highlight yesterday should probably be updated with the conviction for extortion in Belfast Court today.

What concerns me is not so much that, as John Lloyd puts it “The best we can hope for is that there will be no return to overt, inter-communal fighting.” That is probably the best we can hope for. The worrying aspect, and the one that may leave a longer legacy than those involved may think, is that “that best can be achieved only by very large amounts of hypocrisy on the part of everyone”.

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  • Cunctator

    I’m not sure that there hasn’t been a secret victory for republicanism. If I remember correctly Peter Taylor’s book ‘Provos’ states that the London bomb of 1992 caused economic damage estimated at £800 million, £200 million more than all the bombs in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1992 taken together. Why, given their capacity to deliver crushing blows to the British economy, would the IRA suddenly stop unless it was getting quite a lot of what it wanted? The three Western counties in the RPA carve-up are one of the crucial manifestations of that.

  • andy

    Don’t mean to be too partisan but although his overall vision of fairly beningn malise will prob turn out to be accurate – Is it fair to describe the troubles as “a campaign begun by the IRA”?

    and what republican godfathers are involved in the drugs trade?

  • Seán Mc

    Firstly Mick,
    I would like to say I am very disappointed you didn’t warn us of the spoiler Lloyd includes in few paragraphs of his article. I was looking forward to seeing the film and i’m very upset at this b****** ruining the film for me – probably intentional (on Lloyd’s part not yours of course).
    To say that Lloyd’s article is riddled with inaccuracies is an understatement, more like riddled with lies. I’m too damn pissed off to list them – i’m sure we all know where they are anyway. Someone should sue him for libel.

  • Garibaldy

    Pete,

    What level-headed contributors would these be?

  • Pete Baker

    Garibaldy

    None of them have turned up so far ;o)

  • Shay Begorrah

    Fortunately within a few sentences of starting the article I had read about all the many benefits Britain gave to the Irish muck savages and I was able to ignore the rest of it in good conscience and get down to the real fun of reading the almost universally harsh reception Lloyds piece got.

    It must be a difficult time to be a Bush appeaser on the web.

  • merrie

    Saw the film yesterday. Though I found it good, it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.

    IMHO it’s the hot air the film has generated by mostly British commentators (even before they saw the film) that’s more revealing and interesting. Some Brits have to face up to the fact that the Black and Tans in particular behaved appallingly.

    The Wind that Shakes the Barley omitted a few things the B&Ts did – for example burning down Cork’s main street (the equivalent of Oxford St, London). Also it mentions that the B&Ts were mercenaries. From what my granny said they included prisoners released from gaol so long as they went to Ireland to look after British interests there. But that could be folk memory.

    The B&Ts were dressed thus because their uniforms were leftovers and the film does show this: some had tan pants and black shifts, others had tan jackets and black pants! The British landowner who was shot was wearing an orangey-tan suit – some message there perhaps.

    But what really got me was the fact that so many of the Irish people in the film looked like my relatives. I am 2nd generation Australian but there was Aunty Rosaleen as Sinead’s mum, Uncle Ronan as Damien’s brother, plus a few other lookalikes. The gene pool in Ireland must be quite small. There was a Murphy I went to school with who looked like Cillian though Cillian is a lot better looking and slimmer.

    And at the end of the film, the civil war, they were all behaving like my relatives!

  • merrie

    Regarding John Lloyd’s article:

    “ The most courageous leader, the one who did the most to make the Belfast agreement work, David Trimble, sacrificed himself and his party on the altar of an accommodation that went too far for his grassroots”

    Errm, Trimble the courageous (!) the sacrificing? The most enduring memories I have of his time as leader was him going down the Garvaghy with Paisley and his comments about nationalists needing to learn to be house-trained.

  • Henry94

    What is left over from the campaign begun by the IRA is not just distrust and bitterness: it is also the now-ingrained practice of intra-communal violence

    What the IRA did was to provide a balance to the violence of the state. It was state violence and the threat of it that provided the basis for the NI state.

    The IRA removed the states monopoly on force. That may have created a stalemate but even that is a hell of a lot better than subjugation from a nationalist point of view. And while force is now off the agenda the point is established.

    There is a political accommodation on offer from nationalists. maybe unionists are not ready to take it up but that will prove to be a major mistake.

  • Reader

    merrie: The most enduring memories I have of his time as leader was him going down the Garvaghy with Paisley
    Except – they didn’t.

  • Rory

    I can’t wait for the Trimble biopic. But who’s to play our hero, David? I’d suggest Philip Seymour Hoffman with a hair-dye job. And of course that actor who play’s Frazier’s brother, Niles would be perfect for Reg Empey.

    Any further casting suggestions?

  • aquifer

    “There is a political accommodation on offer from nationalists. maybe unionists are not ready to take it up but that will prove to be a major mistake”

    Or what now?

    The article contained a useful reminder that the success of the previous Irish separatist adventure depended on winning the humanitarian argument in the British media.

    The victimhood thing might seem a too threadbare to sustain a return to terrorism, but then SFPIRA have recreated a vibrant DUP to sustain sectarianism at home.

    Ulster as a base for bombing England?

    The DUP profess to love the Union, but do they like the English enough to stop this?

    They would probably prefer to say I told you so, in an accent most English consider foreign and will be glad to stop hearing.

    Having seen the breakup of Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and 9/11, it will be interesting to see how the media now cover murderers with a persecution complex and a sense of unique destiny.

    Those gory headlines are too good to miss though!

  • shamo

    What is most amazing about this Lloyd article is its total indoctrination into an outmoded and rubbished discourse of British imperialist logic that we might like to think is redundant in this day and age. The sheer imperious audacity of his Kiplingesque English-man’s-burden rhetoric is astounding, his distortion of the decolonisation struggle into a petty-sectarian blodbath is absurd, and his failure to understand the powerful democrtaic argument for Irish freedom is an utter anachronism in a postcolonial, postmodern, indeed, a post-bloody-Enlightenment age.

    Loach’s film is damn good. It is naturalistic, but not verist; it shows the typicality of the freedom struggle with vivid and engaging cinematography. I think Lloyd ought to read somehing of G.B. Shaw’s “Preface for Poliiticians” in John Bull’s Other Island. That play was seen by none other than Arthur Balfour about four or five times, and he brought his cabinet along too. Testament to the power of drama, just like Loach’s film.

  • seanniee

    Lioyd is a biased lowland scot.Totally obsessed with Ireland.He should get a life.

  • merrie

    Reader: Well, I’ll amend my statement to say “in Portadown”…